An early career with his father's lithographic firm provided painter Oscar Edmund Berninghaus with the technical skill that gave such power to his later works.
He was born in 1874, and after working to create poster art and engravings, he attended evening classes at the School of Fine Arts in St. Louis. By 1899 he received a commission from the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad to paint scenes from the Colorado and New Mexico region that the railroad passed through.
This work required him to travel west, and it is at this point that he encountered the Taos, New Mexico artist community. He met many likeminded artists, inducing E.I. Couse and Joseph Sharp among others. Berninghaus and his new acquaintances would eventually join together to create the Taos Society of Artists.
Though he continued to take many commercial and public commissions, including some advertising work for Anheuser-Busch, and even designing a float for the Veiled Prophet Parade, it was his time spent in Taos that inspired his most well known paintings. By 1925 he was settled permanently in the area.
Berninghaus was able to capture the remarkable colors and light of the region in his paintings of Native Americans, horses, Spanish Americans and the dramatic landscape surrounding him. He was noted for his rendering of the native peoples in their natural activities and poses, rather than any romanticized or idyllic scenes.
Though located far from the major urban art centers, Berninghaus was still an active exhibitor. He won the Ranger Fund Prize of 1924 and the Second Altman Prize from the National Academy of Design in 1926. He was a member of the Salmagundi Club and the National Society of Mural Painters. His works are highly collected and in many major museums, including the Museum of New Mexico and the Anschutz collection.