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Oscar Edward Berninghaus (American, 1874-1952)


Also known as:  Beringhaus, Oscar Edmund; Berninghaus, O. E.; Berninghaus, Oscar E.; Berninghaus, Oscar Edmund; Berninghaus, Oscar Edmund Edward

Birth Place: Saint Louis (St. Louis Indep. City, Missouri, United States)

Oscar Berninghaus, a founding member of the Taos Society of Artists, spent a part of each year in Taos from 1900 to 1925 when he settled there permanently. He first traveled there in 1898 on assignment for the Denver and Rio Grande railroad to complete a series of paintings for use in a travel brochure. With that first trip, Berninghaus developed a fascination for the land and people of Northern New Mexico. His depictions of Taos and its surroundings formed the greatest part of his artistic output from his first visit until his death at age 77 in 1952. Yet he always maintained a close association with his hometown of St.Louis, Missouri and some of his most important commissions came from St. Louis patrons and businesses, among them, the Anheuser-Bush corporation and Boatmen's Bank.

Established in 1847 as a bank "for the working man," Boatmen's became a major St. Louis institution that played an important role in the civic life of the city. According to company history, its name was derived from the fact that many of its earliest customers worked on the riverboats that sailed up and down the Mississippi. As the bank became larger and more successful in the twentieth century, its executives began to amass an extensive art collection. Many of the works they acquired had a direct connection to the history of St. Louis either in subject matter or in an affiliation with a particular artist who hailed from the city, such as western artist, Charles M. Russell, and genre painter George Caleb Bingham.

Like Anheuser-Bush, the bank also commissioned works of art. In 1936, the bank chose Oscar Berninghaus to create a series of paintings depicting several forms of transportation that were important to the success of St.Louis in the latter decades of the nineteenth century-riverboats, railroads, stagecoaches, and flat boats. Berninghaus completed several paintings in the series over the course of two years from 1936 to 1938.

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