The Saint Francis Murals of Santa Fe

The murals of the Saint Francis Auditorium of the New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico were dedicated in 1918 when the New Mexico Museum of Art was the subject of great festivities held for the grand opening of the building, financed by private capital and State money. The murals themselves are in excellent condition and effectively grace the handsome auditorium. Their meaning is not obvious; in only three of them does Saint Francis appear. One inevitably wonders why the other subjects were selected; who made the decisions as to the subjects; who gave the commission and when; what artists did what for which pictures? What was the impact of the unexpected death of the principal artist before the murals were completed? These questions, but above all the meaning of the cycle of pictures, instigated the author’s research and are responsible for clarifying Santa Fe’s heritage of these extraordinary pictures.

Author Carl Sheppard taught at the University of Michigan, UCLA, and the University of Minnesota where he was also Chair of the Department. In New Mexico he concentrated on the period of the first two decades of the twentieth century. The University of New Mexico Press published his book Creator of the Santa Fe Style: Isaac Hamilton Rapp, Architect. The volume won the Gaspar Perez de Villagra Award for an outstanding publication in 1988. Previously Dr. Sheppard published primarily in the early Medieval field as well as occasionally on subjects of modern art.