New Mexico, Genre, Native Figure, Portrait
Bettina Steinke was raised in New York City, where she studied at Cooper Union and at the Phoenix School. She was a portrait painter, focusing on Indian subjects. She worked as an illustrator and married photographer Don Blair. They often worked together with her as the artist-illustrator, and he, the documentary photographer. They traveled to Central and South America, the Arctic and Alaska where she did portraits of the natives.
At age 24, she earned acclaim for portraits of maestro Arturo Toscanini and all 108 members of the NBC orchestra. In 1949, she and her husband moved West, first to Claremore, Oklahoma, then Taos, New Mexico and in 1955 settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Her favorite subject was Indians. She also painted celebrity portraits including John Wayne and Joel McCrea, which are in the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.
Bettina was not only a gifted artist, but a teacher, and confidante to many others in the 1960s Taos group. This was a group of very young, enthusiastic and wild painters and sculptors including Ned Jacob, Bill Sharer, Buffalo Kaplinski, George Carlson, Jon Zahourek, and others. Bettina taught the young artists to deepen their abilities to see color, form, texture, highlights, and essence.
Her husband Don Blair opened Blair Galleries at The Compound in Santa Fe on Canyon Road in the 1960s and sold her work, and all the 1960s Taos Groups’ paintings and sculptures. Mr. Blair also sold paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe to various collectors.