Oscar Berninghaus finally settled in Taos in 1925, after having visited the area regularly since 1899. One of the founding members of the Taos Society of Artists, he established himself over the course of a productive career as one of the leading artists of the American southwest. His origins were as a commercially commissioned draftsman and illustrator and throughout his life he stayed true to this training, painting the expansive southwest with remarkable accuracy with a sureness of brushstroke and line.
Berninghaus' reverence for the Taos landscape was matched by his love of painterly qualities of its light. "In 1913, he stated in a newspaper interview: '[Taos] is a splendid country for an artist because there are more varieties of atmosphere here than I have found in any other place.'" (as quoted in P.J. Broder, Taos: A Painter's Dream, Boston, Massachusetts, 1980, p. 120) Berninghaus made it his custom to paint similar scenes at different times during the day and during different seasons, becoming a master of the subtleties of the diverse Taos atmosphere and light. The varied yellows and ochres and restrained greens of Aspen Forest, Early Autumn interspersed with sun-dappled strokes of light make the present composition a masterful rendering of the Taos landscape, one of the artist's most cherished subjects.
Berninghaus recognized his and his contemporaries' roles within American art history. He is quoted as saying "I think the colony in Taos is doing much for American art. From it I think will come a distinctive art, something definitely American--and I do not mean that such will be the case because the American Indian and his environment are the subjects. But the canvases that come from Taos are as definitely American as anything can be." (as quoted in M.C. Nelson, The Legendary Artists of Taos, New York, 1980, p. 41)
Berninghaus' luminous pallette and varied brushstrokes create a densely textured surface that represents the artist's reverence for and spirit of the Southwest. Gordon E. Sanders writes, "Taos was indeed a painter's paradise, and Oscar Berninghaus loved it all. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of a Berninghaus painting is the portrayal of truth. He saw the great landscapes as a statement of unlimited freedom--a statement of nature, and he painted them that away--simply and freely." (Oscar E. Berninghaus, Taos, New Mexico: Master Painter of American Indians and the Frontier West, Taos, New Mexico, 1985, p. 122)