|This biography from the archives of AskART.com. |
Some of the following biography is based on information provided to AskART.com by Dr. C.P. Estes.
A painter of portraits, especially Indian subjects, Bettina Steinke was raised in New York City, where she studied at Cooper Union and at the Phoenix School. She worked as an illustrator and married photographer Don Blair, and they often work together with her as the artist-illustrator, and he, the documentary photographer. They traveled to Central and South America, the Arctic and Alaska where she did portraits of the natives.
At age 24, she earned acclaim for portraits of maestro Arturo Toscanini and all 108 members of the NBC orchestra. In 1949, she and her husband moved West, first to Claremoor, Oklahoma, then Taos, New Mexico, and in 1955 settled in Santa Fe.
Of her favorite subject, which was Indians, she said the Caucasian blue bloods she had painted literally paled in comparison. She also did celebrity portraits including John Wayne and Joel McCrea, which are in the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.
Bettina was not only a gifted artist, but a teacher, and confidante to many others of The 1960s Taos group a gaggle of very young, enthusiastic and wild painters and sculptors including Ned Jacob, Bill Sharer, Buffalo Kaplinski, George Carlson, Jon Zahourek, and others. She was generous and kind. Bettina taught the young artists to deepen their abilities to see color, form, texture, highlights, essence. She was one of the last of her kind.
Her husband Don Blair opened Blair Galleries at The Compound in Santa Fe on Canyon Road in the 1960s and sold her incredibly skillful work, and all the 1960s Taos Groups' paintings and sculptures-- mainly through the efforts of the unearthly beautiful Sandra Wilson, Blair's gallery director. Mr. Blair also sold paintings by Ms. Georgia O'Keefe to various collectors.