"In Old Mexico"

  • Details

    Bulls, Cart Mexico Mexican

  • Biography

    Herbert M Herget (1885-1950)

    Herbert M. Herget was an archaeological painter for National Geographic magazine. I have copies of National Geographic, which include his work from 1935 to 1951. He did not live to see his last major project published in the magazine in 1951. The subject of Herget's illustrations in that posthumous issue was "ancient Mesopotamia, a light that did not fail."

    Following is a quotation from the 1951 magazine describing the artist:

    "In the paintings by H.M. Herget, the facts about a complex civilization that lasted several thousand years were compressed and arranged in chronological sequences from remote to prehistoric times down to the middle of the first millennium B.C.

    Each picture stands for a whole age, or for a significant phase of the given age. The episodes, based on fact or on imagination, may be descriptive of a moment in history or of a whole era.

    If the text did not furnish him with something better and stranger than fiction, he invented an incident, but sought to be true to the spirit of the time. Details rest on a solid foundation. His needs for highlighting a composite and dynamic civilization by instilling life into each individual painting impose an added strain on the artist.

    Mr. Herget's experience and interest proved to be a unique combination. He faced the problem, delighting in its challenge. It is a source of deep regret that he did not live to see his last major project published."

    From my discussion in Wickenburg, Arizona with a gentleman who has one of his paintings, I learned that Herget was one of the many itinerant painters who traveled the western area. From the details of the articles in National Geographic, I would expect that the paintings are true in every detail. I do know that the one I own is correct in every area because I have checked its accuracy.

    Over the years, my husband and I questioned all of our knowledgeable art friends re Herget about his unusual signature. We were not sure whether or not it was an f or h at the beginning of his name until i discovered these National Geographics in an old bookstore by the side of route 26 in Maine.

    There was a certain red color that he used in the other works I have seen; it is so distinctive that I can see a painting across the room and know it is a Herget.

    i do not know if he was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but i do know that he spent some time there and i think studied some art there. He was born in 1885 and died in 1950. I do know he traveled in New Mexico and Arizona. The Museum of the Horse in Ruidoso, New Mexico has a poor example of a print.

    The following biographical information is from Robert Mansur, Jefferson City, Missouri:

    I own 6 watercolor paintings and 1 oil by Mr. Herget, which were painted in St. Louis before he went to National Geographic. The paintings had been given to Herget's physician, my uncle. The painting style of these works is quite different from the commercial style of his paintings for National Geographic. All are signed but only one is dated - 1927, Arizona.

    In a copy of an article dated 9/20/2002 from the St. Louis Public Library, it is stated that Herget graduated from Madison School in St. Louis and then went to Washington University School of Fine Arts. He then apprenticed as an illustrator for Woodward and Tiernan. During that time, he quietly pursued his real interest, which was collecting Indian arts and crafts.

    Herget asserted that painting Indians was natural for somebody from St. Louis: "It was from this city, through its fur trading interests and its missionaries, that the earliest civilization reached the Indians of the West." He went on to say: "The Indian had a great native sense of color and design. He reduced what he saw to the simplest significant decorative line and left some strikingly beautiful art conventions. He didn't know too much. That is where he had the advantage of some of us latter-day painters."