Art Collection

History of the Modrall Sperling Art Collection

Our lawyers are committed to the arts, and it is our privilege to celebrate the rich cultural and artistic traditions of the Southwest by sharing our art collection. Modrall Sperling was founded in 1937, and this collection is integral to the tradition of our firm and its support of the arts.

Dick Modrall, one of our founders, was a cowboy-rancher turned lawyer who had a keen appreciation for western art. In the 1950s, his wife, Constance Modrall, founded the Western Art Gallery on Amherst Street in Albuquerque. The gallery became known for its diverse collection of outstanding New Mexican and other Western artists. Over the years, pieces from the Modrall family's collection have been displayed in our hallways and conference rooms. In the early part of the 1990's, we acquired a significant portion of the Modrall family collection. Representative pieces from our collection are shown on the Art Gallery page.

We display this collection both as a representation of western art and in remembrance of Dick Modrall and his affinity for the images of New Mexico and the Southwest. May we always appreciate the incredible diversity of people and landscapes that enrich and enliven our American Southwest.

Introduction to the Modrall Sperling Art Collection

In New Mexico, as in many other southwestern states, the western aesthetic provided a vision of a more elemental life. The spiritual heart of this vision stretched from the ceremonial rhythm of the Pueblos of the Rio Grande to the cattle country of the eastern plains along the Canadian and Pecos Rivers. The main themes were romantic, in the affirmation of homey, pre-industrial virtues and the admiration of nature's spectacle, and nostalgic in the fundamental acknowledgement that even in the West the constant press of progress made the staples and mainstays of this way of life into transient, receding endeavors.

The cowboy aesthetic is a more particular vision that focused not simply, as some would have it, on gunfights and runaway trains, but mainly on the working life of the people who raised and herded cattle in a land that was often scenically grand but also desolate and raw. The cowboy aesthetic represented a simpler, often less artificial, sensibility that, as E. Wuerpel observed in 1951 in New Mexico Quarterly regarding the work of Oscar Berninghaus, offered "No puzzling inquiry, no psychological bewilderment…All is quite straightforward, simple and clear." (Quoted in V.D. Coke, Taos and Santa Fe: The Artist's Environment: 1882-1942. P.18) All in all, therefore, the western sensibility in art also represented a reaction against the complexity and ambiguity of modern life.

The core of the firm's collection is its early prints. The firm's prints by Kenneth Adams, Peter Hurd, Theodore Van Soelen, Gene Kloss, Edward Borein, Oscar Berninghaus, Andrew Dasburg, and others are fine and diverse examples of both the western and cowboy aesthetic.

If you would like to download a printable PDF of a booklet specially designed to highlight and describe the Modrall Sperling Art Collection, including those works mentioned above, click here.