Helmut Naumer Sr. was born in Ruetlingen, Germany. In 1926, the young man moved to the United States to experience the West that he had read about in novels of cowboy life. He joined the Merchant Marines after attending the Frank Wiggins Art School in Los Angeles. After six years at sea, Naumer returned to his beloved Santa Fe in 1932. There he began to work in pastels.
As part of the WPA, Naumer created a series of paintings showing scenes in Bandelier National Monument and nearby pueblos. Naumer produced fourteen pastel artworks from 1935-1936 for Bandelier National Monument.
Although Naumer worked in oils and watercolors, pastels were his preferred medium. He felt that pastels allowed him to capture “the fleeting effects of the sky and water and our own New Mexico landscapes with fast changing colors sweeping rapidly across it, for there are hundreds of different colors and shades, so one loses no time in mixing colors as in oil.”
One reason Naumer’s pastels are so distinctive is that he used a black background. That made the drawings appear to glow, bringing out the vivid colors of the local landscapes and sky. His luminous scenes were greatly admired by those who knew them.
Unfortunately, Naumer never gained deserved recognition in the art world as he preferred to give his works away rather than sell them. He died in 1990.