Supporting Texas Artists
Awards to Artists
Awards to Artists grants have been awarded to more than 230 recipients, many of whom have gone on to successful careers within North Texas and across the country, including Misty Keasler, David Bates, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Lawrence Lee, Melissa Miller, Helen Altman, Annette Lawrence, Katrina Moorhead, Ludwig Schwarz, and John Pomara, among many others. Through this combined awards program, the Museum has given more than $500,000 to artists since 1980. Award recipients are selected by a special committee composed of Dallas Museum of Art staff and invited curators, artists, critics, and patrons.
The Museum’s Process for Collecting Texas Art Before 1964
History of the Annual Exhibitions
From the founding of the museum in 1903 to the merger between the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts and the Dallas Museum of Contemporary Art in 1963, Texas art formed a significant branch of the American art collection at the Dallas museum. Texas art, which is categorized as art either made by Texas artists or representative of Texan life and culture, held particular significance for Dallas as a rapidly growing city with a strong regional character. Many of the Texas-themed sculptures, paintings, and works on paper in the museum’s collection were acquired as purchase prizes at annual exhibitions sponsored by the museum, the State Fair, and various art clubs. Annual exhibitions, such as the Dallas Allied Arts Exhibitions and the Southwest Print and Drawing Exhibitions, provided a well-publicized arena for the display of artworks by local artists. Such exposure encouraged the purchase of Texas art by both the museum and private collectors and facilitated the growth of the art community in Dallas.
The surge in annual exhibitions in Dallas during the late 1920s and thereafter was in part a response to similar developments in other growing Texas cities. In 1910 the Fort Worth Museum of Art held its first annual exhibition, which showcased the work of painters from Dallas and Fort Worth. Fifteen years later, in 1925, the Houston museum held its first annual exhibition, and in 1928 both Dallas and Austin launched their annual exhibition programs. San Antonio was the last major Texas city to follow suit, holding its first annual exhibition in 1930.
Annual exhibitions thrived in Dallas in the following decades. Jerry Bywaters, who served as the Director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts from 1943 to 1964, was largely responsible for their continued success. A prosperous Texas artist in his own right, Bywaters emphasized the importance of regional art in Dallas and encouraged local artists to exhibit their works regularly at the museum. During his directorship, he continued the tradition of exhibiting artists in one-man shows. Applicants for these exhibitions hailed from both within and outside of Texas, demonstrating the strength, widespread reach, and continued legacy of the regionalist movement in America. Bywaters’ support for regionalism was so strong that he invited Thomas Hart Benton, a leading artist and proponent for the movement, to speak at the museum in 1951.
From the mid-1960s onwards, annual exhibitions of Texas art gradually phased out of the museum’s exhibition program. This was due largely to the significant changes that occurred during this time. First, a merger was established in 1963 between the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts and the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts. This broadened the interests of the museum and demanded a more varied collection of art that would appeal to a greater audience of visitors. Second, Jerry Bywaters ended his term as Director and was succeeded by Merrill Rueppel, who redirected the museum’s focus. Under his leadership, the Dallas Museum of Art made important acquisitions in pre-Columbian, ancient, Asian, and contemporary art. The last significant factor in the decline of annual exhibitions in Dallas was the simultaneous growth of multiple, successful local galleries that showcased the work of Texas artists. Venues such as Valley House Gallery and Atelier Chapman Kelley, for instance, were already well established by the 1960s.
The first Dallas annual, the Allied Arts Exhibition of Dallas County, was held April 14-28, 1928. The exhibition, which was organized by the Dallas Art Association, showcased 626 works of art made from various media in the Fair Park Fine Arts building. The exhibition gave artists the opportunity to display their works for publicity purposes or to offer them for sale, in which case the artwork was accompanied by a price tag. As time progressed, exhibition organizers refined the qualifications for artwork entries, scaled down the number of works on view, and increased the duration of the exhibitions. Beginning in 1929, one- to three-person juries were appointed to grant awards to outstanding works of art. In some instances, artworks received “honorable mention” in recognition of the artist’s skill or innovative techniques. The most sought after award, however, was the “purchase prize.”
A purchase prize was a monetary award granted to an artist for his or her artwork, which was deemed superior to all other artworks within its category by the juried panel of the exhibition. Jurors were often, but not always, professional artists, university art teachers, or museum directors or curators with established reputations. Exhibition organizers often invited jurors from both within and outside of Texas so as to provide artists with fair judgment of their works. The money for the purchase prizes came from private donors, art clubs, or corporate organizations highly active in the Dallas art community. Sometimes the donor specified a category for the award, as seen with the Dallas Print and Drawing Society Purchase Prize, awarded to Bertha M. Landers’ Soldiers Without Uniform (1943.12) at the Fourteenth Annual Dallas Allied Arts Exhibition in 1943. In other cases, purchase prizes were awarded to artworks based exclusively on the jurors’ discretion. All works that received purchase prizes automatically entered into the museum’s permanent collection.
Purchase prizes were especially important because they demonstrate how Texas works of art were received at the time of their production. They were the most admired works at the annual exhibitions and as such offered a valuable glimpse into the early life of the Dallas art community. During this time, Texas art was also donated to the museum, as was the case with Janet E. Turner’s Some Past is Present (1960.100), which was a gift of the artist. Artworks were also purchased using acquisition funds. Alexandre Hogue’s Drouth Stricken Area (1945.6), for example, was a Dallas Art Association Purchase. Thus Texas art was acquired through various channels during this formative period and, as a primary interest for public and private collectors, played a pivotal and active role in the early life of the museum.
Dallas Art Clubs
The Lone Star Printmakers
In May 1938, sixteen Texas artists met to create the Lone Star Printmakers, a local organization patterned after the Associated American Artists, an art club and gallery established in 1934 in New York City. Like the AAA, the Lone Star Printmakers served the dual purpose of promoting the creation and collecting of prints. From 1939 to 1943, the group held annual exhibitions that showcased the work of its members, a practice which greatly benefited the artists by reducing their individual costs of artistic production and promotion. The members, which included the Dallas Nine, were especially interested in depicting the regional landscape and created variations on the farms, plains, forests, and deserts of Texas. They also experimented with different printmaking techniques, although most of the Dallas artists were not familiar with the medium. This was due largely to the scarcity of printing presses and tools in the Dallas region during the 1930s and 1940s. Artists had to either travel outside of Texas to access printing presses in workshops or utilize an approach that did not involve a press, such as woodcut or linoleum printing. Artist and DMFA Director Jerry Bywaters hired local printing businesses to press his lithographs on several occasions, but few Dallas printmakers could afford the expense.
Thomas M. Stell, Jr.
Harry P. Carnohan
Otis M. Dozier
Charles T. Bowling
Olin Herman Travis
H. O. Robertson
The Texas Printmakers
In 1940, eight women formed the Printmakers Guild when one of them, Bertha Landers, was denied entry to the Lone Star Printmakers, an all-male organization. Beginning in 1941 the club held annual exhibitions to showcase their art and offer it for sale. The exhibitions, which were held in Texas and across the United States, granted significant exposure to the group and fostered the success of its members. Renamed the Texas Printmakers in 1952, the organization included numerous artists who became professional artists and taught art in schools and universities. Other than the original eight founding members, the Texas Printmakers welcomed twenty-three additional female artists. In 1961, two male artists, James Scott Darr and Paul Rogers Harris, were invited to join the group. Another nineteen women either had been members for a brief period or had exhibited their work in the club’s annual exhibitions. The Texas Printmakers remained active until 1965.
Lura Ann Taylor Hedrick (Mrs. Loren Hedrick)
Lucile Land Lacy (Mrs. Floyd Lacy)
Coreen Mary Spellman
Evelyn Lucile Beard
Frances Jane Bishop
Mary Katharine Bradford (Mrs. Ben Wiley Bradford)
Edith Mae Brisac
Grace A. Crockett
Mary Cranfill Curtis (Mrs. William Matsen Curtis)
James Scott Darr
Mary Frances Doyle
Ann Cushing Gantz (Mrs. Everett E. Gantz, Jr.)
Paul Rogers Harris
Veronica Helfensteller (Mrs. Haakon Ogle Helfensteller)
Bess Bigham Hubbard (Mrs. Chester A. Hubbard)
Barbara Lucile Maples
Florence Elliott White McClung (Mrs. Rufus A. McClung)
Hazel Fulton McGraw (Mrs. J. R. McGraw)
Janet E. Turner
Elizabeth Harter Walmsley (Mrs. Donald Walmsley)
Camille Cameron Wunsch (Mrs. Raymond Wunsch)
Jessie Collins (Mrs. John B. Collins)
Richard C. Coones
Andrew (Drew) DeShong, Jr.
Dorothy J. Krueger
Daga Ramsey (Mrs. Jack Ramsey)
Enna Faye Rogers
Eloise Yantis Stoker
Jean Cullum Turner (Mrs. Gene Turner)
Research supported by The Texas Fund for Curatorial Research, University of Texas at Dallas. The Fund provided a grant to research early Texas art (c. 1901-63) in the Dallas Museum of Art’s collection so that more could be learned about the annual exhibitions of Texas art that were popular in Dallas between 1928 and 1963. Alexandra Wellington, Research Fellow, European and American Art, Dallas Museum of Art.