Born in Hungary, Emil Bisttram immigrated with his family to New York around 1906 and later enrolled in night classes at The Art Student's League. Perhaps in an attempt to escape New York after the 1929 stock market crash, Bisttram first travelled to Taos, New Mexico in 1930. With its distinct light and landscape, New Mexico had already attracted a variety of artists including early visitors John Mix Stanley, Worthington Whittredge, and Thomas Moran, to artists that would soon call the area home, including Joseph Henry Sharp, Eanger Irving Couse, Ernest Blumenschein, and Bert Geer Phillips, among others.
Bisttram brought with him a unique modern aesthetic that would identify the artist as an influential member of the Taos Art Colony. In regards to the artist's "devotion to the principles of Dynamic Symmetry," Mary Carroll Nelson concludes that "clearly, the arrival of Bisttram and his intellectual viewpoint marked a change..." (The Legendary Artists of Taos, New York, 1980, p. 168). Toward the Light dates from Bisttram's later Transcendental period and brilliantly demonstrates the artist's devotion to nature composed in a vivid palette of saturated light and abstracted forms. The image of a tree is at once recognizable, both as a pictorial element and perhaps more significantly as a metaphor. The angular planes of color create a sense of movement while the more subtle circular patterning of buds and diffusion of color lend a sense of re-birth and contemplative meditation to the scene. In a 1957 lecture, Bisttram commented "...the new era in art, a new age, a new renaissance, is attempting to express the spirit, the essence of things, that which is felt...These works demand that we contemplate them in silence...allowing our own intuitions and creative imaginations to participate and, in the process become 'at one' with the creative form. In other words, we who look...become creators, too."