One of the most important but somewhat understudied engravers creating art in Taos was Doel Reed. He finally gets the recognition he deserves. Opened at the Taos Art Museum on June 7, Sun Patterns, Dark Canyon: The Paintings and Aquatints of Doel Reed explore the art and career of famous 20th-century American printmaker and painter Doel Reed (1894-1985). He is best known today as a Southwestern artist and “master of aquatint”.
Reed was, like many artists who found themselves in Taos, born in the Midwest. Born on May 21, 1894, near Logansport, Indiana, he acquired an international reputation as a landscape painter and engraver and was described as a master of aquatint. As a youth, he took art classes at the John Herron Art Museum in Indianapolis and developed a lifelong interest in artwork featuring the human figure. Graduating from high school in 1912, he apprenticed as an architect for four years. This exhibit of architectural drawing was later shown in its detailed depictions of buildings and structures.
In 1916 Reed began studying at the Cincinnati Academy of Arts. The first art school west of the Allegheny Mountains, the school emphasized a classical education focusing on the principles of drawing and painting. Among his prominent teachers was Joseph Henry Sharp. Sharp was one of the founders of the Taos Society of Artists. See How a Broken Wagon Wheel Changed the Course of Art History by Lenore Macdonald, published by Classic Chicago Magazine, September 8, 2019.
His education was interrupted by service in World War I with the Forty-Seventh Infantry in France, exposing him to mustard gas and leaving him with temporary blindness and permanent lung damage.
Reed joined the Academy in 1919 after the war, subsequently joining the faculty of Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) in 1924. The college gave him wide latitude. He had a long and productive career spanning over 30 years as an art teacher and was recognized as a dedicated and inspirational teacher.
In the 1930s Reed became a master printmaker, lecturing widely on the technique of aquatint. Like many other Depression-era artists, he embraced regionalism, which favored rural and Midwestern subjects. By the late 1940s, Reed was enjoying a national reputation and had developed his signature style, a conservative modernism characterized by geometric abstraction, dramatic use of light and dark, and emphasis on emotional impact. . Reed began summering in Taos, with its thriving artists’ colony, beginning in the mid-1940s and moved permanently to New Mexico in 1959. New Mexico’s mountainous topography, geology, and history Mexico were an endless source of inspiration for Reed. This retrospective exhibition highlights his prints, paintings and drawings from the 1920s to the 1970s.
Solar Patterns – Dark Canyon draws attention to this important but understudied artist and shows how Reed influenced and contributed to national and international artistic trends during his long and prolific career. The exhibition includes over 60 works of art by Doel Reed and his contemporaries. His personal items, such as his World War I diary and examples of his aquatint plates, are also included. A catalog of the exhibition will be available. Solar Patterns – Dark Canyon will close on August 28, 2022. For more information, visit the Taos Art Museum at https://www.taosartmuseum.org/
Solar Patterns – Dark Canyons: The Paintings and Aquatints of Doel Reed is hosted by Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The exhibition was curated by Dr. Rebecca Brienen. Funding for this exhibition was provided by Kent and Jeanette Young, the Doel Reed Center, Neal and Lora Buck, and the Vaughn Vennerberg II Endowed Chair Fund in Art. The accompanying catalog is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Family Foundation.
Finally, the Doel Reed Center in Taos is an educational site that extends Oklahoma State University’s reach into culturally rich northern New Mexico. Located in the former home and studio of Doel Reed, founding chairman of OSU’s Department of Art, the Center is a hub of creativity in teaching, research and outreach. Donated to OSU by Martha Reed, Doel’s daughter, the Center fulfills her vision of a thriving educational community befitting her father’s work and legacy. Visit https://doelreed.okstate.edu/ for more information.
©2022 Lenore Macdonald. All rights reserved.
Photos courtesy of Oklahoma State University and Taos Art Museum