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Calling on the Past

Artist Andy Mauldin paints in the studio/living room of his Camino del Monte Sol home, built in 1919 as the studio of his great-grandfather, artist–architect– furniture designer William Penhallow Henderson.

An artist lives and works in his great-grandfather’s studio

ARTISTICALLY BUILT BY GUSSIE FAUNTLEROY | PHOTOS BY KATE RUSSELL

There’s an empty nicho oddly situated near the floor in Andy Mauldin’s kitchen, in the adobe structure his great-grandfather built in 1919 on the street called Camino del Monte Sol, which runs between Canyon Road and Old Santa Fe Trail in Santa Fe. Mauldin thinks the odd little space may have been where the phone company installed a wire box, way back in the day, for phone service to what was the property’s art studio. While Mauldin doesn’t know for certain that his great-grandfather—the renowned painter, architect, and furniture designer William Penhallow Henderson—actually had a phone, the sight of the nicho prompts an unexpected remembrance: “My great-grandmother stopped them from putting up signs out there [that would name Monte Sol] Telephone Road,” Mauldin says, gesturing in the direction of the narrow street.

Left: Alice Corbin Henderson and William Penhallow Henderson wear Fiesta costumes on the back portal of their home.
Middle: Mauldin gazes out the studio windows that provided north light for his great-grandfather’s easels in the early 20th century, just as they do now for Mauldin’s artwork.
Right: In Mauldin’s bedroom sits a cabinet designed by Henderson and built in the early 1900s. The room was once Henderson’s furniture making shop. An oil painting by David Barbero hangs above the cabinet.

The fireplace nook in Mauldin’s studio/living room. William Penhallow Henderson’s furniture craftsmen built the wooden window shutters,
featuring Henderson’s carved-rose motif, and the hand-adzed cabinet doors.

The Hendersons moved from Chicago to Santa Fe in 1916 because Alice Corbin Henderson, a poet and co-founder of Poetry magazine, was suffering from tuberculosis and hoped for healing in New Mexico’s clear, dry air. She spent five years at Sunmount Sanitorium—a tent-city tuberculosis treatment center at the end of Monte Sol whose existence meant telephone service would soon snake its way along the eastside lanes. William and their daughter, “Little Alice,” lived in a small rented house on Monte Sol while William built himself a studio up the street. Alice joined them after recovering her health. The studio was William’s until his 1943 death; in the 1950s, Little Alice converted it to a living space. Since 1971, Andy Mauldin, now 59, has called it home.

It’s a good fit, since the descendant of the Works Progress Administration muralist is a painter too.

Mauldin explains, touring the kitchen, “This was Henderson’s drafting room. There would have been a secretary here by the door to greet you and drafting tables under the windows.” The room, with its low ceiling, blue painted cabinets, and row of south-facing windows filled with geranium pots, is like a postcard for old Santa Fe. And Mauldin, too, seems to have stepped into modern life from a slower past. His speech is thoughtful, his movements unhurried. He has no computer, says he has no interest in TV.

“I listen to the radio a lot,” says Mauldin. “It’s not my intention to live as an anachronistic anomaly; it just kind of works out that way.”

Surrounded by rustic, hand-carved wooden furniture of his great-grandfather’s design—Mauldin’s bedroom was Henderson’s furn­iture studio—the artist paints in the large, high-ceilinged room where Henderson’s own easels once stood. Outside the kitchen windows, lush grass and flourishing roses speak to Mauldin’s other passion: gardening that resembles an English-cottage style.

Mauldin’s artistic leanings literally come with the territory—not only were William and Alice Henderson an influential part of Santa Fe’s early art scene, but also another of Mauldin’s great-grandmothers, Mabel Dodge Luhan, was a social magnet and patron of artists and writers in Taos.
The artistic links don’t stop there: In 1922, Little Alice, at 15, married John Evans, Mabel’s 20-year-old son. Natalie, one of their daughters, was Mauldin’s mother; his father was New Mexico native Bill Mauldin, a two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning syndicated political cartoonist known for drawing Willie and Joe, a pair of battle-weary soldiers whose wryly irreverent perspective gave Americans a glimpse of the realities of World War II.

In the early 1920s, Henderson built a rambling single-story adobe home for himself and Alice on land adjacent to his studio. In 1925, along with John Evans and Edwin Brooks, a builder, he formed the Pueblo-Spanish Building Company, whose office was Henderson’s drafting room (now the kitchen). The company helped popularize Pueblo Revival architecture, which formed the foundation for Santa Fe style. Among its signature projects: the Garcia Street compound owned by sisters Amelia Elizabeth and Martha White, now the School for Advanced Research on the Human Experience; what is now the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian; and a renovation of historic Sena Plaza.

Meanwhile, Camino del Monte Sol was filling up with artists—including Frank Applegate and Andrew Dasburg and writer Mary Austin.

Five young avant-garde painters known as Los Cinco Pintores—Fremont Ellis, Willard Nash, Will Shuster, Jozef Bakos, and Walter Mruk—built a row of small adobe houses across the street from Henderson’s studio. When the Depression hit, the Pueblo-Spanish Building Company closed and the Hendersons sold their house and moved to Tesuque, but William held onto the studio.

Half a dozen years later, William Henderson was hired by the federal Works Progress Administration to paint six New Mexico landscape murals for the federal courthouse (next to the downtown post office), where the remarkably modern paintings can still be seen today. Getting the 8-foot-by-12-foot paintings out of the studio required some ingenuity: The artist cut a five-inch-wide slot, ten feet tall, into an outside wall of his studio, and passed the finished murals through the slot.

“He was a master colorist, really a genius,” Mauldin says of Henderson, adding that his great-grandfather was an important influence in Mauldin’s own artistic evolution. Represented for many years by the Laurel Seth Gallery before it closed in 2006, Mauldin creates watercolor landscapes with a strong focus on color and with delicately delineated forms. “My grandmother told me my paintings really reminded her of [William’s] color concerns,” he relates. “I’m doing something similar to what he did: taking complex visual information and simplifying it so it looks realistic but it’s abstracted.”

Henderson paints a portrait of cowboy poet Henry Herbert Knibbs in the Palace of the Governors’ courtyard in 1916. Above: Santa Fe as seen from Henderson’s home on Camino del Monte Sol, 1920s.

Mauldin grew up outside New York City in the town of New City, New York, and in St. Louis. He spent three years at the Art Institute of Chicago before accepting Little Alice’s suggestion to move to Santa Fe, where as a boy he had often visited relatives. Today Mauldin’s home remains largely unrestored since he moved in. The slot door can still be seen in the studio wall. The hand-built furniture and masterfully hand-adzed cabinet doors—“Nobody does that anymore,” he says—reflect the skill of Hispano artisans who worked for his great-grandfather.

The furniture designer’s signature carved-rose motif adorns thick wooden interior window shutters. Roses also are engraved on a combination daybed and sofa, called a Taos bed, which Henderson made for the comfort of his ailing wife. In the former woodworking room, an open-beam ceiling and clerestory windows were inspired by the architecture of New Mexico’s mission churches, Mauldin believes, adding, “It’s kind of cool to think that all this furniture was made in this room.”

Whatever interior design touches have been added to the house, like the cozy nook produced by facing twin benches in front of the fireplace, Mauldin ascribes to the “really good taste” of his former wife, Barbara.

Left: A Taos bed with hand-carved roses, designed by Henderson for his ailing wife, Alice, helps define the studio/living room. Right: Garage doors at the residence next door to Mauldin’s show the signature rose motif.

Left: Old Cuba Road. Right: Cabezon. Henderson completed these paintings and the others in the federal courthouse in Santa Fe between 1935 and 1937.

Time has made some changes as well. The house has settled and shifted over the years, leaving walls slightly tilted and some beams warped. The lived-in feeling has its charm, and the absence of updates suits Mauldin, though he did have an engineer check the curving beams recently (he pronounced the house safe). “This is just a great place to be able to do the kind of work I do, both the painting and gardening,” Henderson’s great-grandson reflects. And in that pair of passions, he’s clearly carrying on the esteemed traditions of the artists’ colony that grounds his house’s neighborhood and history.

From the Summer 2007 issue

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