Erna Lange


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Although Erna Lange once claimed she knew how to paint her whole life, “even without study” , when she first arrived in Arizona she could boast of an impressive art education.

Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1896, by the time Lange was thirty she had attended the National Academy of Design, the Art Students League, Cooper Union, and Metropolitan Art School in New York. She had also studied under well known figure painter Cecilia Beaux.  She later spent five years in France (1924 to 1929) on a Chaloner Prize Foundation scholarship where she attended the Academies Colarossi, Grand Chaumiere, Julian, and Billoul in Paris.  During this time she also received tutelage as a private student of Ferdinand Olivier.

By the time she left France she was an accomplished portrait, still life and landscape artist. Two years later, after spending a winter living with the Papagos at San Xavier del Bac, she expressed strong desire to make painting the Southwest her life’s work.

“I have in mind, especially to express on canvas, that full rich, harmonious coloring, which is so characteristic of this land. The Grand Canyon, and the Painted Desert …are indescribably dramatic, majestic and compelling.”

In 1940 she became a permanent Arizona resident, opening up a studio/gallery in Dreamy Draw, just north of Phoenix. From her then secluded location, over the next four decades she taught classes and painted the Phoenix Mountains region extensively.

Effectively combining bold colors with pastels, Lange’s impressionistic portrayals captured the essence of the area’s solitude and natural beauty before urban encroachment scarred much of the landscape.  Her renditions were of a peaceful, enticing desert -very much alive yet little touched by humanity.

Like all of her Arizona Women Artists contemporaries, she possessed a strong independent streak. She once remarked that she paid no attention to how other artists painted the desert, commenting “That is not necessary and it is often very harmful. If one can simply be one’s self then and then only may he succeed. To be watching what another is doing detracts from one’s self.”

Lange died in Phoenix in 1984.


End Notes


Erna Lange “36 Years Viewed in Retrospective.”  Daily Progress-Weekend, August 20, 1976

Erna Lange “Plans for Work”.  Personal papers from the archives of Erna Lange’s estate.

Bernice Cosulich. “American Artist Lived at Papago Village All Winter.” Unknown newspaper clipping. C.1935


Erna Lange Studio


Erna Lange's Dreamy Draw studio

Circa 1955


Erna Lange San Xavier del Bac

San Xavier del Bac

Oil on canvas 32 x 42

Erna Lange European Village

European Village

Oil on board 18 x 21



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