Alfred Morang (1901-1958) was a delicate child who was prone to sickness. Beginning in sixth grade, he received private schooling and violin lessons at his family home in Maine. When he was 16 he took his first painting lessons from artists who summered in the area. He soon sought instruction from Impressionist Carrol S. Tyson and landscapist Henry B. Snell.
In the 1920s, Morang lived in Boston and worked as an artist, illustrator, music teacher and fiction writer. He married musician Dorothy Clark and moved to Portland, Maine, where he tutored music students and painted. He relocated to Santa Fe in 1938 after contracting tuberculosis, and the landscape inspired him to focus completely on painting.
Morang was a polymath who played the violin, wrote short stories that were published in national magazines, and painted. He opened an art school, had a local radio show and held regular salons at his home. He frequented Claude’s Bar, the rowdy saloon on Canyon Road that served as a meeting place for fellow artists, politicians and ladies of the evening. Many of Morang’s paintings are like a visual diary of Santa Fe in the 1940’s and 1950’s and have a raw sense that echo the city’s spirit at that time. Technically his paintings are informed by impressionism and postimpressionism, many painted thickly with a palette knife. The best of his work can rival that of the French masters he admired.
In the 1950’s, Morang set up a studio that was just down the street from Matthews Gallery’s current location. He tragically died there in a studio fire in 1958. “[Alfred Morang] taught half of us how to paint and the other half how to see,” said one Santa Fe artist after Morang’s death.