Walter Mruk attended the Art Students League in New York. In 1920 one of his instructors, artist John E. Thompson, made a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the young Mruk and a childhood friend Jozef Bakos went with him.
Mruk and Bakos decided to make thier homes in Santa Fe and started to paint with other artists they met there. At that time the Taos art colony was the primary influence on Southwest art and was known for very traditional work. But Mruk and his friends (all in their early twenties) considered themselves to be Modernists and weren’t influenced much by what was being shown in Taos, since it was a rough four-hour journey to get there at that time.
In the fall of 1921 five of the painters; Mruk, Will Shuster, Willard Nash, Fremont Ellis and Jozef Bakos formed the avant-garde Los Cinco Pintores (The Five Painters). This was the beginning of Santa Fe as a famous art colony. They were strongly influenced by the work of Robert Henri and John Sloan of the Independent Movement, better known as the Ashcan School. They were seeking freedom from the constraints of traditional academic art. Their first exhibition was at the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe during December of 1921. An art critic commented, “These men believe in color and are not afraid to use it. Upon entering the galleries, visitors are greeted with a great shout of color that’s almost stimulating.”
Having limited money, they started helping each other build small houses on land along Camino del Monte Sol in the now well-visited Canyon Road area of Santa Fe. Over time many other artists came to Santa Fe. A group formed in the summer of 1923 that was called New Mexico Painters. They exhibited their work in eastern and mid-western galleries and museums as well as in the west and the Santa Fe Museum of Fine Arts. By June of 1924 Walter Mruk and four others – John Sloan, Randall Davey, Andrew Dasburg and Theodore Van Soelen had joined the group. They exhibited in 1924 at the Art Institute of Chicago, Los Angeles County Museum and at the San Diego Museum. As the five young men went their artistic ways separately, the Los Cinco Pintores dissolved in 1926.
1. Who Was Who in American Art, Peter Hastings Falk
2. Panhandle Plains Historical Museum
3. Museum of New Mexico