Local History Thursday: Alfred Nestler, One of Grand Junction’s Most Successful Artists

Alfred and Frances Nestler. Wedding photo from 1923. Public domain photograph shared by Lori Weber (findagrave.com).

Beginning tomorrow on First Friday, the Art Center of Western Colorado will host a new exhibit titled Alfred Nestler: The Power of the Pen: An Exhibition from The Art Center’s Permanent Collection. In honor of this showing, we explore the life of Nestler, an artist who got his start in Grand Junction before becoming part of Sedona’s nascent art scene in the 1950’s.

Alfred Louis Gustav Nestler was born in Missouri to Lewis Gotthilf Nestler and Anna Marie (Henschke) Nestler in 1899. US Census records show that his father was a painter (presumably a house painter). His mother was a German immigrant and homemaker. According to the 1920 US Census, Nestler was already following in his father’s footsteps as a painter by the age of 19.

Alfred married Francis Marie Viets in 1923. Census records show that they lived in Grand Junction by at least 1930. There, Nestler worked first for the Fremont Wall Paper and Paint Store as an artistic decorator, and then for his own company, Nestler Interiors, as an interior designer.

According to local historian David Sundal in his interview with the artist Cecilia Cardman, Nestler worked not only as an interior designer but as a house painter and a furniture refinisher. He also worked hard on his own fine arts painting, painting landscapes in oils and making ink drawings.

He helped further the arts community in town through his involvement. With Harold Bryant, Esther Reed, D.D. Sims, and Archie Bliss, he established the Beaux Arts Club, which met in the 1920’s. After the disbandment of the Beaux Arts Club during the Great Depression, he helped establish the Brush and Palette Club, a possible forerunner of the Arts Center.

After the passing of his wife, Nestler seems to have remarried and built his own adobe home in the Mantey Heights neighborhood, but then moved shortly after to Sedona, where his granddaughter recalls that he established La Galaria during the 1950’s (see Find a Grave entry for Alfred Nestler). In 1960, he published the book Color and Composition, part of the Walter Foster Art series.

Mesa County Libraries owns the Nestler painting Willow Lake, which can be viewed on our website and in-person in the Central Library’s Study Room A. The Art Center also owns a collection of Nestler’s work, including the paintings After Glow, Junipero, and Path to the Sea.

To learn more about Nestler’s art, visit the Art Center. To learn more about the life of Cecilia Cardman, another artist from Grand Junction who found success away from home (New York City), listen to her interview with the Mesa County Oral History Project (MCOHP). Find out more about nationally-known artist Harold Bryant in the MCOHP, or check out the book Harold Bryant: Colorado’s Maverick with a Paint Brush by Al Look.

Posted in 970West, General, Local History.


  1. This man was my Grandfather. Grew up in the adobe house he made in Grand Junction CO. I still have about 5 of his paintings and miss him every day.

    • Hi Lori,

      Thank you for sharing! Your grandfather left a great legacy behind for the people of Grand Junction to enjoy.


    • Lori,

      I have a very unique piece that seems to be an original done by your Grandfather that I bought at a silent auction in Palisade, CO. The piece had been in an attic storage for a long time at a local bank. If you get this and would like to see it just email me at scott@GroFresh365.com and I’ll send you a picture of it. If you live in the Grand Valley, you’d be welcome to come to our farm and take a look at it. I did get an email from Audrey Walker in 2015. I think she is Ernestine May/Nestler/Todd’s Granddaughter. She said she remembered the piece as it was unlike any of his other works.

  2. I would love to know more about Alfred m, his wife and their adobe home, their life together in GJ.

    I find his work fascinating.

    • Hi Mary,

      Thank you very much for your comment on Alfred Nestler. Unfortunately, not much seems to have been written about him, aside from a mention here or there in newspaper articles. By following the link in this blog to Cecilia Cardman’s interview, you will know as much as we do! You might also try reading the book Sedona Verde Valley art : a history from red rocks to plein-air by Lili DeBareieri. https://encore.coalliance.org/iii/encore/record/C__Rb33815571 The book is available through Prospector and may possibly mention something about Nestler’s role in the Sedona art scene.


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