Spanish Colonial Architecture

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While New Mexico was under Spanish rule, architectural developments occurred slowly. Spanish settlers were cut off from trade with their fellow North Americans. Supplies, as well as technology and ideas, had to come from far-away Spain. During these years of isolation, settlers lived a subsistence lifestyle and had little money or energy for developing architectural styles or engineering. Adobe homes were simple and made from basic local materials. Details included flat roofs, earthen floors sealed with animal blood, mud plaster, wooden bars on windows, vigas and latillas for the ceiling. Glass, nails, and hardware were not available. Communities were often arranged around a plaza for defensive purposes.

Spain focused most of its effort and money on missionary activities. The mission churches were the most significant architecture during this period, and they have been painted and photographed by numerous artists over the years. Churches were built within Spanish communities in the northern mountains like at Rancho de Taos, Trampas and Chimayo, and in all of the Pueblos. The friars were in charge of Pueblo church design and engineering, and the Pueblo people supplied the hard labor. Though the history of the Pueblo mission churches is fraught with controversy and tragedy, the buildings themselves are known for their simple beauty, and they have provided inspiration for important developments in New Mexico architecture.

Related Artwork

Cutting Vigas, ca. 1942 Manville Chapman (American, 1903-1978) tempera on board 10 x 8 in. (25.4 x 20.3 cm) On long term loan from the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration 750.23P
Laying Vigas, circa 1942 Manville Chapman (American, 1903 – 1978) tempera on board 10 x 8 in. (25.4 x 20.3 cm) On long term loan to the New Mexico Museum of Art from the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration 753.23P
Plastering, circa 1942 Manville Chapman (American, 1903 – 1978) tempera on board, 14 x 11 in. (35.6 x 27.9 cm) On long term loan to the New Mexico Museum of Art from the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration 749.23P
Ranchos de Taos, 1979 Harold Joe Waldrum (American, 1934 – 2003) acrylic on canvas 44 1/8 x 46 x 1 in. (112.1 x 116.8 x 2.5 cm) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert F. Lowrey, 1983 1983.47.1
Santa Fe Hills, 1917 Leon Kroll (American, 1884 – 1947) oil on canvas, 34 x 40 1/4 in. (86.4 x 102.2 cm) Gift of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, 1972 2266.23P
Ranchos Mission, circa 1946 Wilfred Henry Stedman (English, 1892 – 1950) oil on canvas 20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 61 cm) Gift of Mrs. Myrtle Stedman, 1975 3200.23P
Church at Acoma, 1902 Unknown Photographer and Detroit Photographic Company photochrom 7 x 9 in. (17.8 x 22.9 cm)
Santuario at Chimayo, 1933 Willard Ames Van Dyke (American, 1906 – 1986) gelatin silver print 7 5/8 x 9 3/4 in. (19.4 x 24.8 cm) Gift of Dr. Richard and Susan Streeper, Faith Meem, Susan C. Herter and Richard and Stephanie Davis in memory of Mrs. Walter Mayer, 1986 1986.134.1

Discussion Questions

  1. What environmental and cultural influences contributed to Spanish Colonial architecture looking the way that it does?
  2. Looking at the artwork of Spanish Colonial architecture, what elements of the architecture seem familiar to you in the architecture that you see in New Mexico today?
  3. Look at the three tempera paintings by Manville Chapman that depict different stages of adobe construction. What naturally occurring local materials can you identify?

About the Artists

A selection of the artists featured in this curriculum are listed below. Click on their names to learn more about each artist.

Manville Chapman was a Colfax County pioneer’s son, growing up in Raton, New Mexico. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and is known for many of his New Deal projects, including the eight murals at the historic Shuler Theatre in Raton, a series that shows trails blazed and towns created by the early settlers, stagecoach routes and railroad tracks. Chapman also lived in Taos and finally moved to California.

Leon Kroll was born in New York City where he spent many hours as a young man looking at the paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He earned his tuition for the Art Students League by sweeping floors and washing paintbrushes, and was there encouraged by Winslow Homer to pursue a career in painting. After additional studies in Paris, Kroll returned to New York in 1910, earning critical and popular success. He became associated with a circle of contemporary artists and participated with them in the 1913 Armory Show, a pivotal exhibition introducing both European and American ‘modern’ art, to the American public, and stimulating artists to revise their attitudes to art and the tradition of representational painting.

 

Connected Collections

Art & Architecture

Subjects
Adobe Architecture, Chaco Canyon, First Peoples, Pueblo Peoples, 19th Century History, 20th Century History, Railroads, The Santa Fe Trail, Post-Statehood, Spanish Pueblo Architecture, Spanish Colonial Art, Spanish Colonial Period
Content Types

New Mexico Art Tells New Mexico History

This collection features content that we have transferred to The Humanities Project from our former online educational resource, New Mexico Art Tells New Mexico History.

Subjects
Adobe Architecture, Chaco Canyon, First Peoples, Pueblo Peoples, 20th Century History, Migration, Route 66
Content Types

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