While working for various printers and lithography firms during the day, Berninghaus attended the Saint Louis School of Fine Arts at night. In 1899 the Denver and Rio Grande Railway sent him west to depict the scenery along its route. During this trip he visited Taos, New Mexico, the picturesque southwestern town that he was to be identified with for much of his career. Until he settled permanently in New Mexico in 1925, he worked as a commercial artist in Saint Louis during the winter and painted in his Taos studio during the summer. Berninghaus was a founding member of the Taos Society of Artists.
Eldredge, Schimmel, and Truettner, Art in New Mexico, 192; Gordon E. Sanders, Oscar Berninghaus, Taos, New Mexico: Master Painter of American Indians of the Frontier West (Taos, N.M.: Taos Heritage, 1985).
William Truettner, editor The West as America: Reinterpreting Images of the Frontier, 1820–1920 (Washington, D.C. and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991).
Painter. A few months of night classes at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts, his only formal training, led Berninghaus to a successful career as a painter and illustrator. While touring the Southwest in 1899, he was persuaded by a brakeman on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad to visit Taos. He stayed only a week on his first trip but returned from his native St. Louis each summer until 1925, when he settled in Taos permanently, drawn by the diverse population and scenic landscape. Berninghaus was one of six founders of the Taos Society of Artist in 1915. By the early 190s, he was well known in the East as a painter of Indians and the southwestern landscape, which remained his favorite subjects for the next thirty years.
Cassidy, Ina Sizer. “Art and Artists of New Mexico.” New Mexico Magazine 11 (January 1933): 28, 41–42.
Broder. Taos: A Painter’s Dream, pp. 115–35.
Bickerstaff, Pioneer Artists of Taos, pp. 85–98.
Charles Eldredge, Julie Schimmel, and William H. Truettner Art in New Mexico, 1900–1945: Paths to Taos and Santa Fe (Washington, DC: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1986)