Background: Oscar Berninghaus was born on October 2, 1874 in St. Louis, Missouri. Oscar began by sketching the St. Louis riverfront. Later he worked from tales he heard from trappers and cowboys passing through, and developed a fascination with the American Old West.
Education: As an artist, Berninghaus was largely self-taught. By 1886, he was an accomplished watercolorist. He developed an interest in business and sold his works to tourists and newspapers. At sixteen, he had quit school and taken a job with Compton & Sons, a local lithography company, where he learned the technical details of engraving, color separation and printmaking. In 1893, he left Compton & Sons and joined Woodward and Tiernan, one of the largest printing concerns in the world at the time
Achievements: Berninghaus developed a reputation as an artist and in 1899, he was given a commission by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad to produce promotional sketches of the Colorado and New Mexico landscapes. He spent a week in Taos, New Mexico, where he met and befriended Bert Phillips, who had established himself there the previous year.
Berninghaus was captivated by the local Indian culture and the landscape and light of the area, and returned to Taos nearly every subsequent summer. These visits grew longer, soon turning into six-month retreats. In 1915, he became a founding member of the Taos Society of Artists, along with his friend Bert Phillips and four other artists. He was the first (temporary) chairman of the Society. He also spent more time as secretary of the Society than any other member.
He continued to reside in St. Louis until 1925, when he finally made the move to Taos. After the Society disbanded in 1927, he became active in the Taos art colony.