Posts Tagged 'Texas Art'

Bluebonnets in Bloom

With spring upon us, we can anticipate the sprouting of bluebonnets along Texas roads and highways. Bluebonnets can also be found in the DMA’s permanent collection. One of the best places to look is in the work of Julian Onderdonk, a San Antonio–born artist. Onderdonk is recognized for his portrayal of his home state’s landscape, in particular the Texas State Flower, the bluebonnet. Onderdonk so perfected the portrayal of bluebonnets that to this day his name is immediately linked to scenes of these blue and violet flowers carpeting expansive landscapes.

Onkerdonk in action. Image source http://nyti.ms/2nrmieC

After studying in New York at the Art Students League and William Merritt Chase’s Shinnecock Summer School, Onderdonk returned to Texas in 1909. Back in his home state, he found that he could combine the techniques he learned in New York with his environment in Texas. The bluebonnets were the perfect subject in which to manifest his interests. Appearing initially as subtle parts of his compositions, they dominated the artist’s work by the mid-1910s.

Field of Bluebonnets

Julian Onderdonk, Untitled (Field of Bluebonnets), 1918–20, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Margaret M. Ferris, 1990.153

Although the bluebonnet became the state flower in 1901 and was represented by other artists prior to Onderdonk’s embracing them as a subject, his depictions of the flower increased their popularity and distinctive connection to the state of Texas. The bluebonnets also brought fame to the artist while defining Texas art as a regional school that paralleled other schools of regionalist art in America. The appeal of these paintings was twofold; on one hand, they played into Texas pride by giving importance to the state flower, and on the other hand, they highlighted Onderdonk’s painterly talents and ability to render nature.

Blue Bonnets

Bluebonnets in bloom.

For Onderdonk, these flowers were more than simply bluebonnets. They allowed him to find a balance between what he saw and a subject he knew well: in other words, a blending of his East Coast training and his connection to the Hill Country of Texas. Painted around 1918-1920, Untitled (Field of Bluebonnets) is an example of Onderdonk’s dedication to the flower. Onderdonk learned from Chase the importance of painting outdoors because it allowed a closer observation of the light and shadows. Here Onderdonk responded to Chase’s emphasis on painting en plein air (outdoors before the motif) and capturing the changing effects of light and shadow in a field covered with the vividly colored blossoms. He paints the bluebonnets in rich blues and greens, making each bloom in the foreground individuated and then progressing into broad strokes of color to portray the pool of flowers.

Francesca Soriano is the McDermott Intern for American Art at the DMA. 

Wednesday in the Park with Olivier

Yesterday our McDermott Interns enjoyed a lovely fall walk through Fair Park with Olivier Meslay, the Museum’s Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs. We took some time to appreciate the Art Deco architecture and art sans the busy fair crowds and learned more about the origins of the DMA.

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The preparations for the celebration of the Texas Centennial involved the work of artists from around the state and across the globe, using Six Flags over Texas as an overarching theme.

With the opening of the Texas Centennial Exposition just around the corner, the then Dallas Museum of Fine Arts moved into its new building in Fair Park on May 31, 1936. Although the Museum would be renamed and moved to its current location in the Dallas Arts District, the DMFA building remains in Fair Park, where its Art Deco details can still be appreciated.

In front of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts Building

In front of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts Building

Whitney Sirois
McDermott Graduate Intern for Gallery and Community Teaching

Sarah Coffey
Education Coordinator

Texas Flora

With Bouquets: French Still-Life Painting from Chardin to Matisse closing this weekend, you only have a few days left to enjoy the blossoming canvases in the exhibition. The tradition of recreating bundles of blooms in art as still-life is longstanding. Many of the floral arrangements you’ll see are bright, plush tableaus with numerous species represented. They demonstrate the prowess of French master artists who nestled cultural symbols throughout the canvas.

In contrast, neither silk ribbon nor glittering vase contain the artworks celebrating iconic Texas flora from the Museum’s permanent collection. They are rendered on paper or hardboard in print or with brush. Realistically portrayed in muted tones, a single species is the subject of each work. These plants thrive in the unique climate of our rugged state and have been cultivated by humans for centuries for medicine, sustenance and beauty.

Merritt Mauzey’s print Cotton Stalk and Florence McClung’s print Castor Beans resemble naturalist studies from early botanical books. The plants are highly detailed and placed against a void background to isolate their physical attributes. You can also see similarities to Art Nouveau motifs in Mauzey’s print. The cotton stalks are frontal and flattened with sinuous stems. Cotton has been a leading cash crop in Texas for generations. Every part of the plant can be put to use, especially the tuft of fibers which is removed and spun into thread. Castor-beans, on the other hand, have highly toxic seeds containing ricin and are hazardous to most livestock.

Otis Dozier, on the other hand, places Texas staple crops in a portrait style composition with their respective farm settings as the backdrop. In Cotton Boll, Dozier depicts the sequence of growth as we are reminded that flora has a brief but bountiful life cycle. Some art scholars believe Maize and Windmill resembles millet as the size and shape of the plant look somewhat like Red Millet or Sorghum. Maize has been cultivated and prepared as food in numerous ways since ancient times in North America. The shape or color of the seeds can be an indicator of their diverse genes.

Charles T. Bowling, Meadow Wind, 1942, Dallas Museum of Art, Ted Dealey Purchase Prize, Fourteenth Annual Dallas Allied Arts Exhibition, 1943.

Charles T. Bowling, Meadow Wind, 1942, Dallas Museum of Art, Ted Dealey Purchase Prize, Fourteenth Annual Dallas Allied Arts Exhibition, 1943.

Sunflowers have long been used by indigenous North Americans for many reasons, like treating snake bites or making oils. In some parts of Texas they can grow up to eight feet tall, with flower heads one foot in diameter! Charles T. Bowling captures the strength of the sunflower in its natural setting in his watercolor Meadow Wind.

Throughout the pages of many sketchbooks by Otis Dozier are studies of sunflower heads. It is interesting to see an artist working through his observations of nature. He uses the blank pages to examine the texture and form of the sunflower at various angles.

Imagine all the unique decorative arrangements that could be made with the regional flora of Texas. And there are many other examples of Texas flora in the collection to explore. Try searching for ‘jimson weed,’ ‘coxcomb,’ or ‘cactus’ in the DMA’s online collection database. And when you stop by for your last peek at Bouquets, see what other blooms you can find in our galleries!

Rae Pleasant
Research Associate for Early Texas Art

A Dallas December

Edward G. Eisenlohr, December, Dallas, 1938, pencil on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Gertrude Helmle, the estate of E. G. Eisenlohr

Edward G. Eisenlohr, December, Dallas, 1938, pencil on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Gertrude Helmle, the estate of E. G. Eisenlohr

This drawing of a Texas meadow in December by Edward Gustav Eisenlohr from the DMA’s collection of early Texas art seems simple in its portrayal, yet subtle details add texture and depth to the page. Notice the hatching on the rock formation in the foreground or the care given to the hundreds of individual leaves and petals throughout—a departure from the idea of a Texas landscape as an endless desert or barren prairie.

The temperature in Dallas in December 1938 averaged 48 degrees, but interestingly a record high of  84˚ was set on December 10 of that year. Therefore, despite being a winter month, the white patches to the left are  likely not snow. Eisenlohr often represented bare spots in the ground, a common occurrence on the prairie, with colorless patches.

Eisenlohr was a Dallas painter, printmaker, and teacher. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1872 of German descent, he died in Dallas in 1961 and is buried in Oak Cliff. Eisenlohr initially moved to Dallas as a child with his family, and later the area would become his inspiration and artistic base. He studied in the early 1900s with Texas art legends Robert J. Onderdonk and Frank Reaugh, which included lessons during outdoor trips. Eisenlohr would continue to make sketching trips to sites all over Dallas, so the above work was most likely done en plein air, or created outside from life. He was involved in establishing the Dallas Art Association, forerunner of the Dallas Museum of Arts, in 1903, which, as you know, became the DMA.

Rae Pleasant is the Research Associate for Early Texas Art at the DMA.

End of the Trail

mozley sign

We are in the final days of the Loren Mozley: Structural Integrity exhibition. It is rare to see these works by the Texas modernist on view together, so don’t miss your opportunity to visit this free exhibition, on view through Sunday, June 30.

Texas Art in a Texas Museum

I first joined the DMA team in July 2010 as an intern for the Curatorial Department of European and American art. In May 2011 I was hired as the research project coordinator for early Texas art, a two-summer position sponsored by the Texas Fund for Curatorial Research. As an art history graduate student specializing in 18th-century British art, I enjoy switching gears when I am in Dallas for the summer and learning about the history of the local art scene in my hometown. The culmination of my research is an addition to the DMA website that includes both a timeline of all Texas-related exhibitions and a historical text about the evolution of the Dallas art community over the years.

The most valuable resource for my project has been the DMA Archives. When I first started researching the relationship between Dallas art clubs, local artists, and the Museum, I spent many hours perusing exhibition catalogues and photographs from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. I was surprised to learn that women played a central role in the early history of the Museum, and that support for local artists was strong and consistent throughout the decades. I quickly realized that most of my attention would be devoted to the period spanning the 1930s to the 1960s. During this time, the Museum sponsored between five and twenty exhibitions each year that exclusively showcased the work of Texas artists.

Most of these exhibitions were sponsored by local art clubs and were held annually. Examples include the Dallas Allied Arts exhibitions, the Dallas Print and Drawing Society exhibitions, and the Texas Watercolor Society exhibitions. For each exhibition, local artists submitted works for entry, which were then judged by a three-person jury prior to the opening of the show. Top works of art were awarded purchase prizes, which were monetary awards provided by art clubs, private donors, and local businesses. All works that received purchase prizes automatically entered the Museum’s permanent collection.

Here are some of my favorites:

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What surprised me most as I was researching the Museum’s collection of Texas art, and specifically the purchase prizes, is the variety of subject matter, techniques, and artistic styles. As you can see, Texas art is not restricted to panoramic views of the desert or scenes of cowboys at work on the ranch. There is much to be learned about the Museum’s vast and incredibly varied collection of regional art. I think it’s time we all took a closer look. Explore the Texas Art section of the Dallas Museum of Art’s website for additional images and information.

Alexandra Wellington is the former Research Project Coordinator for Early Texas Art at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Seldom Scene: A Fond Farewell to Dorothy Austin

Texas sculptor Dorothy Austin passed away last week at the age of 100. Her work Slow Shuffle was featured in the 2009 Dallas Museum of Art exhibition All the World’s a Stage: Celebrating Performance in the Visual Arts, and this past year her sculptures Noggin and Male Torso were included in the exhibition Texas Sculpture. We were fortunate to have Dorothy Austin visit us in October 2009 with her family and wanted to share those memories with you.

Sculptor Dorothy Austin with her family on a visit to the DMA in October 2009.

Dorothy Austin and DMA Senior Curator Olivier Meslay

Dorothy Austin, Noggin, 1933, white pine, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of an anonymous friend

Dorothy Austin, Male Torso, late 1930s-early 1940s, white pine, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Robert W. Webb

Dorothy Austin, Slow Shuffle, 1939, carved plaster, Dallas Museum of Art, Texas Art Fund and Early Texas Art Fund


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