Artwork Information

  • Title:

    Penitente Church, New Mexico

  • Artist:

    Freedman, Maurice

  • Artist Bio:

    American, 1904–1985

  • Date:


  • Medium:

    Oil on canvas

  • Dimensions:

    20 x 29 7/8 inches

  • Credit Line:

    Wichita Art Museum, Museum purchase, Director's Discretionary Fund

  • Object Number:


  • Display:

    Not Currently on Display

About the Artwork

Freedman, a native of Boston, studied art in New York City and Paris where he became interested in the work of the Cubists, Fauves and German Expressionists. He is one of those American painters who, in the tradition of such early modernists as John Marin and Marsden Hartley, has attempted to synthesize European modernism and American subject matter. Although New Mexico has not been one of Freedman’s major themes, it is one of the places, which impressed him as being expressly American.

The Penitentes is a religious order or society dedicated to special observances, rites, and penances, which culminate during Holy Week. The society is believed to have originated in Mexico and developed in the mountain country of northern New Mexico during the centuries when the region was isolated from the organized Roman Catholic Church. It is strictly a Spanish-American society rather than an Indian society as is often mistakenly thought. The Penitentes’ practices of self-whipping and penitential scourging have generated considerable controversy and curiosity over the years.