A significant contributor to modernism in the American Southwest, Josef Bakos was a member of "Los Cinco Pintores," Spanish for Five Painters, the first artist group in New Mexico devoted to modernism and bringing art to the people of New Mexico, those who worked in factories, mines, etc. so that they could have a greater appreciation of beauty. Bakos was the son of Polish immigrants and grew up in Buffalo, New York. He studied at the Art School at the Albright Art Gallery with John Thompson, who introduced him to Cezanne whom he emulated including becoming a plein-air painter. In 1918, Bakos followed Thompson to Denver, Colorado and worked as an art teacher in Boulder. In 1920, Bakos settled in Santa Fe, where he first earned money by carving furniture for La Fonda Hotel and in 1921 founded "Los Cinco Pintores" with Walter Mruk, Willard Nash, Will Shuster, and Fremont Ellis.