Gerald Cassidy (1879-1934), a Cincinnati native, relocated to New Mexico as a young man, primarily to thwart the tuberculosis expected to take his life within six months.* Cassidy’s health improved so dramatically from the relocation that he eventually enjoyed the liberty of travel - and even set up shop for several years as a lithographer in Denver, Colorado. Ultimately, though, Cassidy found Colorado less salubrious, and returned to New Mexico - first to Albuquerque, then to Santa Fe.
Cassidy sought to be authentic in his representation of indigenous tribes. Accordingly, he would spend stretches of time immersed in their communities. His willingness to work the land and practice traditional art alongside Native American mentors gave him rare access to tribal practices. Cassidy was so taken with the cultures he experienced, that he even began incorporating a Tewa-Indian sun symbol into his signature.
The combination of a Northern art-school pedigree and a novel Southwestern subject helped Cassidy’s art become a common sight at exhibitions across the US and Europe. He was especially recognized for his murals - one of which earned him the grand prize and gold medal at the Panama-California Exposition in 1915.
In 1934, while working on murals for the Civil Works Administration, Cassidy suffered a fatal accident in his adopted hometown of Santa Fe. The February cold had caused Cassidy to hole up in his studio, with a toxic combination of paints and a heater. His premature death from carbon-monoxide poisoning was lamented in publications as distant as the New York Times, which proudly reported that Cassidy’s work was even in the Louvre.
*In the early 20th century, the arid South was a common prescription for ill Northerners. Artist Nicolai Fechin would find himself in New Mexico for similar reasons over two decades later.