Willard Nash

Artist, Painter

Founding Member of the first Santa Fe modernist art group, “Los Cinco Pintores”

Willard Nash had many talents. As a youth, he acted on stage and was the highest paid boy soprano in the United States. He went on to amateur boxing and worked as a commercial artist at the age of 16 during the middle of the depression. Detroit Art School beckoned and he studied under John P. Wicker.

Nash took ill in 1918 with the Spanish flu. With his lungs severely compromised, he went out west to Montana and worked for U.S. Forest Service. He returned in better condition to Detroit after a year and went back to school.

Nash journeyed to Santa Fe to check out the art community and work on some of his ideas. He settled there permanently a year later. In 1921, Nash along with Jozef Bakos, Fremont Ellis, Will Shuster and Walter Mruk formed the first Santa Fe modernist art group, “Los Cinco Pintores.”

One important detail about Nash that separated him from the rest of his comrades was that he had a patron. He did not have to concern himself with what would sell and had the luxury to experiment and paint for himself. In the 1930’s he received national notice and was regarded by Diego Rivera as one of the six best painters in the United States. Andrew Dasburg, a noted artist living in Santa Fe at the time, was very influential in Nash’s development as a modernist painter. Dasburg studied under the avant-garde artists in Paris and encouraged Nash to make experiments with cubist –based abstraction. The presence of Cezanne and Picasso could be found in many of Nash’s works in the 1920’s.

Divorced and experiencing the worst of the depression, he left Santa Fe in the 30’s and moved to California where he taught art school at the San Francisco Art Institute and later at the Art Center School in Los Angeles. The highlight of this time was his major exhibition in L.A that covered fourteen years of his work. The show was so well attended by the entertainment industry and general public that it was extended.

Nash returned to New Mexico with tuberculosis and died in Albuquerque with the intention of resuming his painting in Santa Fe.

Our connection to Willard came many years later. Upon filming Sea Of Love in NYC, Chris and I became life long friends with Willard's niece, Betsy Cox. Betsy is a celebrated sailor, and a costume designer in both the film and television industries. Some of her credits include: Private Benjamin, Breaking Away, Seems Like Old Times, Doctor Detroit, The Lonely Guy, While You Were Sleeping, Phenomenon and many more.

Betsy is 90 years young and living a great life in Southern California and she remains an important part of our life to this day.

Learn more in our Spotlight series >>

Betsy Cox on her 90th Birthday

Costume Designer for film and television