In mid-1918, at the urging of Mabel Dodge, a wealthy benefactor and patron of the arts, Marsden Hartley traveled to New Mexico, splitting his time over the next year between Taos and Santa Fe. Influenced by the spirituality of the Native American community and the distinct landscape of the region, Hartley's works explored a revival of naturalism, depicting the New Mexico landscape with a characteristic hard, dry, and almost monochromatic color. In a letter to Steiglitz, Hartley noted that "it is a magnificently sculptural country...it is strong, sober, starkly simple, and the light is hard and clear." (J. Hokin, Pinnacles and Pyramids: The Art of Marsden Hartley, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1993, p. 42) Staying true to his restless nature, Hartley left New Mexico in November 1919, never to return to the area.
On a trip to Germany from 1923 to 1924, Hartley longed for a sense of past and home and quickly completed twenty-five works based entirely on memory titled New Mexico Recollections. "With a simplistic, almost abstract idiom, he eliminated all extraneous detail and reduced the New Mexico landscape to elemental, inchoate forms to convey the 'natural wave rhythms' of the primordial landscape of the American West. In contradistinction to the earlier New Mexico works executed either in situ or while in New York, these paintings exude a brute force and dramatic vigor heretofore not encountered in Hartley's artistic vocabulary." (Pinnacles and Pyramids: The Art of Marsden Hartley, p. 48)
In Near Santa Fe, using thick outlines to suggest the volume and the sculptural presence of the mountainous terrain, Hartley renders a small scene that still reveals the immense scale and solid personality of the New Mexico landscape. The monochromatic color scheme reveals the frequent melancholy and somber mood of the artist, while also exposing Hartley's reverence for the area. "Transformed by both memory and imagination, these expressionist 'landscape inventions' clearly reflect Hartley's own emotional dissonance as he recalled the powerful grandeur and magnificence of the American West." (Pinnacles and Pyramids: The Art of Marsden Hartley, pp. 49-50)
"In these paintings New Mexico is a turbulent, windswept world. The earth and tree forms in the foreground and the mountains and clouds of the background are transformed as if by a raging storm and echo the desolation and emotional turmoil of the artist, isolated and misunderstood in his own land." (P.J. Broder, The American West: The Modern Vision, Boston, Massachusetts, 1984, p. 146)
The painting is inscribed on the reverse: "This painting by my liefelong friend Marsden Hartley comes from my personal collection of his work and is listed with the American Art Resarch Council of the Whitney Museum Carl Sprinchorn Sept. 19th 1950"