New Mexico/California, Non Objective Imagery Watercolor, Solar Architectural Design

William Lumpkins was the sole artist among the early modernists who could rightly claim his connection to New Mexico and the inspiration from the high desert landscapes as a birthright. In 1929, he enrolled at the University of New Mexico where he took painting classes from artist Neil Hogner and architect Irwin Parsons, markedly influencing his artistic development. Lumpkins subsequently met a network of other young modern artists, including Cady Wells and Andrew Dasburg. These artists first introduced Lumpkins to the conceptual aspects underlined in non-representational painting, viewing art as a vehicle of personal expression through line and color. Lumpkins recalled that his passion for painting occurred early on, as he could always be found working ceaselessly on his watercolors through the New Mexican summers of his twenties “as if possessed”. This early work already displays the quintessential Lumpkins approach, in which the immediacy of watercolor is fully wielded and “the strokes are bold and energetic; white paper both a luminous ground and a compositional element”.

In 1934, Lumpkins received his degree in architecture from the University of Southern California, and in the following years, worked as a junior architect for the Works Project Administration, returning to Santa Fe in 1938. Upon his return, he befriended many of the early New Mexico modernists, among them Jozef Bakos, Willard Nash, and B.J.O. Nordfeldt. He developed a particularly devoted friendship with the artist Raymond Jonson, who shared his passion for the expressive possibilities of abstract work. Lumpkins soon became a member of this exclusive and now famous Transcendental Painting Group of New Mexico (1938-1942) which many consider the American heir to “Russian Constructivism, Futurism, and the Bauhaus”.

Lumpkins is also renowned for his innovation in architecture and solar technology. In 1935, he constructed the first passive solar house in New Mexico in Capitan. After World War II, he lived and worked as an architect and painter in La Jolla, California, before returning with his wife and children to Santa Fe in 1967. In 1985, he founded the prestigious Santa Fe Institute of Fine Arts, and continued to live and work in Santa Fe until his death in 2000.

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