© Laura Walker

Carl Von Hassler (1887-1969)

By the 1940s, Von Hassler was one of New Mexico’s most popular painters and came to be called The Dean of Albuquerque Artists. He seldom showed his work in galleries as he was able to sell most of his paintings privately. He took pride in the fact that they found homes in many countries around the world. Von Hassler also completed major commissions for such notable Albuquerque buildings as the 1939 Albuquerque Airport, Fred Harvey’s Alvarado Hotel, the Franciscan Hotel, Bank of New Mexico, and First National Bank. Sadly, his ceiling decoration at the Airport is the only of these commissions that have not been removed or destroyed.

Carl Von Hassler always knew he wanted to be an artist. But parents often have different ideas, and at age 14, Carl found himself enrolled in the German Naval Academy. Fortunately, the Academy offered elective art courses and the aspiring young artist was delighted to realize that he could obey his fathers wishes and learn to draw and paint at the same time.

Von Hassler experienced another life-altering event two years later when he attended a performance of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. His father, a prominent businessman, had helped bring the temporarily bankrupt troupe to Bremen. Thats when I first decided to go to America, he recalled. That opportunity to go abroad finally arrived in 1912 after he finished his naval service and also completed six years at the Düsseldorf Art Academy.

Von Hassler first settled in New York where he studied with members of the Ashcan Group. By 1917, as America prepared to enter World War I, several of the Ashcan painters were drawn to New Mexico, lured by the beauty of its landscape. Ironically, von Hassler heard a very different call. So great was his dedication to his new home he joined the U. S. Army in the fight against his homeland.

In Germany, von Hasslers brother also signed up to fight, literally pitting the family against itself. When his brother was killed in the war, von Hasslers mother disinherited him, and he decided never to return to Germany. After four years of service he was released from the US Army and, in 1922, von Hassler moved to New Mexico. Instead of following his New York acquaintances to Santa Fe, however, he settled in the up-and-coming town of Albuquerque.

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