Beauty and the Best: Millicent Rogers Museum

Since 1947 the Millicent Rogers
has showcased the best of Taos and northern New Mexico

Millicent Rogers was blessed with an impeccable eye for quality-in people, in places, and in the objects she collected, owned and treasured. Her strikingly beautiful face and sophistication were made public on the pages of international fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. Also blessed by a heritage of wealth and social status-her grandfather was Henry Huddleston Rogers, a founder of Standard Oil and partner in Anaconda Copper and US Steel-Millicent Rogers was brought into contact with the celebrated and powerful. And yet, this witty intellectual had another side that was private, even reclusive at times, and dedicated to her own creative pursuits.

Da: Red on Black Pot

c1965 Popovi Da, San Ildefonso
Red on black/Sienna Jar/Feather Design

Rio Grande Textile

Hispanic Rio Grande Textile

In 1947, after living around the world, Millicent Rogers moved to remote and rustic Taos, drawn by the peace and grandeur of a landscape dominated by the Sangre de Cristo mountains. It was in Taos that Rogers pursued her own career as a jewelry designer, creating glorious fantasies in gold and richly-colored stones as gifts for friends and family. Her dramatic and elegant necklaces, opulent bracelets, and theatrical brooches and pins, sculpted in wax and cast in chunky lustrous metals, are today admired by a new generation of jewelry collectors and historians.

To Millicent Rogers, the arts of the Southwest-jewelry and textiles in particular-expressed the spirit of place and people, fragile reminders of a world that she felt was soon to disappear because of rapid development and inevitable changes. She also saw the value in preserving this fragile beauty by collecting and preserving the finest of handcrafted pieces from artists and artisans of the region. The brevity of her time in her beloved Taos (Rogers died in 1953 at age 50) belies the grandeur of her collections of silver and turquoise jewelry made by Pueblo, Navajo, Zuni and Hopi silversmiths, and the brilliantly-colored Navajo weavings of incomparable rarity that she sought out and acquired. Although collected purely for personal enjoyment by Millicent Rogers and never envisioned as a "museum" collection, her collections were opened to the public in 1956 by her family, as a way of sharing her vision. Since that time, the Museum collections have grown and expanded to encompass many areas outside of Millicent Rogers' own interest, and the Museum that bears her name is today visited by thousands of visitors from around the world each year. What began as a personal quest for quality is today a proud legacy of art, design, and craftsmanship that captures the spirit of creativity of northern New Mexico.

Carreta de la Muerte

Carreta de la Muerte

Zuni Tab Necklace

c1940 Zuni Tab Necklace

Located four miles north of Taos Plaza, the Millicent Rogers Museum sits on a sun-drenched and windswept sagebrush mesa dominated by Taos mountain and the many-hued Sangre de Cristos. The Museum's setting and its gracious adobe architecture serve as a backdrop to a memorable array of historic and contemporary jewelry, ceramics, weavings, paintings and sculpture representing the myriad cultures of northern New Mexico.

Among the highlights of the Millicent Rogers Museum's collection of more than 5000 works are a superb and massive turquoise necklace, weighing about three pounds, acquired by Millicent Rogers from the Zuni jeweler Leekya Deyuse and a rare collection of nineteenth-century engravings and prints, published in America and abroad. These prints document the ways in which the people, the landscape, the architecture and the cultures of the Southwest were presented and promoted in popular journals and magazines.

Since Millicent Rogers' day, the collections have continually grown and diversified. Added to the Museum in the more recent past is an exceptionally significant body of ceramics made by Maria Martinez and her family from San Ildefonso Pueblo. This comprehensive collection, which came to the Museum thanks to Anita Da, Maria's daughter-in-law, contains some of Maria's finest works such as a decorated "Snake Pot" from about 1927 and an array of the famous burnished blackware made by Maria and Julian. An historical background for the "ceramic renaissance" that occurred at pueblos such as San Ildefonso early in this century is offered by the Museum's important and visually-powerful collection of prehistoric pottery from the Southwest.

The Museum also features a unique collection of Hispanic domestic and religious art. A specially-designed gallery installation with a traditional adobe floor and carved and painted decorations displays santos and retablos by major artists from the nineteenth-century to the present day. The Hispanic collections also feature tinwork, contemporary weavings, graphics, photography, painting and sculpture. Currently, the Museum is developing its holdings of Hispanic jewelry, an important but overlooked area in both research and collecting.

The Museum's changing exhibitions examine the artistic and cultural history of the region, the contextual and cultural backgrounds of art and design, the work of established or emerging artists, and the issues and forces that influence creative work today. The Museum has been recognized for its innovative Native American and Hispanic Biennials which bring together artwork in all media by leading Hispanic and Native American artists.

The Museum's recently renovated and expanded Museum Store features specially-selected regional pottery, jewelry, textiles, paintings and sculpture. The Store also maintains an extensive library of publications on the arts and cultures of the region.

The Millicent Rogers Museum remote is open daily from 10 to 5pm (closed Mondays November through March and on Easter, San Geronimo Day-September 30, Christmas, New Year's Day). Admission charged; Members free. Information: 575-758-2462

Thanks to David Revere McFadden, former MRM Executive Director.

Originally appeared in
The Collector’s Guide to Santa Fe and Taos - Volume 10

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LAST MODIFIED September 25, 2007

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