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Martin Shaffer (American 1913 – 1985)

Updated: Sep 23, 2022

Figures on a Levee, 1933, oil on canvas board, 9 x 12, signed and indistinctly dated lower left, also noted “Taos” lower left, label from “Lineberry Private collection” verso


About the Painting

As a young twenty-year-old, Martin Shaffer painted Figures on a Levee during his first summer in Taos while working with some of the members of the recently disbanded Taos Society of Artists. This is one of his rare early paintings. The influence of the older and well- established Taos artists is apparent, particularly when considering works like Ernest Martin Hennings’ Riders in Taos Valley and Ernest Blumenschein’s Juniper and Cottonwood. Figures on a Levee comes from the important collection of Duane Van Vechten and Edwin C. Lineberry who lived in a Taos at an estate called El Rancho de la Mariposa (Butterfly Ranch) and operated the nearby Kachina Lodge. During their four decades living together in the Taos community, Van Vechten and Lineberry collected the works of the earlier Taos artists and when Van Vechten died in 1977, the collection was inherited by Lineberry. In 1994, to honor his late wife, Lineberry donated a significant portion of the collection to establish the Van Vechten-Lineberry Taos Art Museum.

About the Artist

Martin Shaffer was a New Mexico painter, photographer, and craftsman. He studied fine art and photography at the University of New Mexico and came to Taos in 1933 and 1934 as part of the University’s summer art program to work with some of the members of the recently disbanded Taos Society of Artists. Later in the 1930s, he relocated to New York to attend the Arts Students League and to “understand the arts scene.” While there, he had a show at the school’s gallery. Shaffer then obtained an MFA degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before returning to New Mexico in 1940, when he opened a photography and later an ironworking studio. He continued a multi-disciplinary art practice for much of the remainder of his career.


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