Bywaters Special Collections Artist Profile: Vivian Louise Aunspaugh

This week, the Bywaters Special Collections artist profile highlights Vivian Louise Aunspaugh, who is featured in the exhibition Texas Women Artists: Selections from Bywaters Special Collections, on the 2nd floor of Hamon Arts Library.

Vivian Louise Aunspaugh was born August 14, 1869 in Liberty [now Bedford City], Virginia to John Henry and Virginia Fields (Yancy) Aunspaugh. Her father, a cotton buyer, moved the family from Virginia to Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia while Vivian was a child. At sixteen she graduated from Shorter College in Rome, Georgia, where she demonstrated early artistic aptitude and was awarded the Excelsior Art Medal by the school. For the next few years, Vivian taught art and took instruction from several notable art schools and instructors, including the Art Students’ League in New York, where she studied with John Henry Twachtman, and in Paris, France with Alphonse Mucha. In 1890, Vivian returned from Europe and in the following year moved to Texas where she first taught art, French, and penmanship at McKinney College in McKinney, Texas. During the next few years she took on different assignments, including teaching at the Masonic Female College in Bonham, heading the art department at Patton Female Seminary in Dallas, and later, teaching decorative arts at St. Mary’s College, also in Dallas. In 1900, she exhibited her work at the Expo Universelle in Paris, France, where she received a gold medal.

In 1898, Aunspaugh joined fellow Dallas artist Clyde Giltner Chandler, also a teacher of art at St. Mary’s College, in establishing joint studio classes designed for those wanting to teach art in public school and as a four-year preparatory course for college. They offered instruction in painting, drawing, modeling, outdoor sketching, illustrating, cartooning, commercial art, decoration and design. In 1902, their school eventually became known as the Aunspaugh Art School and was located in the Dreyfuss Building on Main and Ervay Streets in downtown Dallas. The school is credited as the first art school in the Southwest to offer classes in fine and commercial art, including the use of live models, nude and draped. In 1903, Chandler received a scholarship from the Dallas Art Association to study for two years at the Chicago Art Institute. Vivian Aunspaugh stayed with the school, which later moved to 3509 Bryan Street in Dallas. Vivian Aunspaugh continued to teach art in Dallas for the next 57 years and remained active in Dallas civic duties throughout her life. From 1912 to 1932, she was leader of the art department and responsible for the annual exhibition of Texas artists at the Dallas Woman’s Forum and for many years was director of the Gamma Omicron Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi, the young businesswomen’s sorority.

Almost immediately after World War II ended, Vivian Aunspaugh’s current and former students, and others interested in studying art, met on September 17, 1945 to establish the Vivian L. Aunspaugh Art Club. According to club minutes, the main objective of the club was “to create an individual interest of art.” It was decided to have a meeting and luncheon in the home of members on the third Monday of each month and to have an annual exhibition at the Joseph Sartor Galleries located on McKinney Avenue. At the following monthly meeting the officers of the club were installed which included a President, 1st Vice President, 2nd Vice President, Recording Secretary, Corresponding Secretary, Treasurer, Historian, Parliamentarian, Sponsor [Vivian Aunspaugh], Publicity Secretary and included a Yearbook Committee, Social Committee, and a Program Committee. On March 21, 1946, the club’s first exhibition was held at the Joseph Sartor Galleries and in 1956 members exhibited their work at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Although Vivian Aunspaugh died on March 9, 1960, the club continued to meet through the 1960s and 1970s. During the 1980s membership began to dwindle, yet the club exhibited members’ work Feb. 14 – 19, 1980 at D-Art Gallery in Dallas. The club disbanded on May 17, 1986.

Image: Aunspaugh Art School, 3409 Bryan Street, Dallas, Texas, ca. early 1900s, original dimensions:  8” H x 10” W

Courtesy of Vivian Aunspaugh Art Club Records, Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University

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