Bywaters Special Collections Artist Profile: Evaline Clarke Sellors

Featured in the exhibition Texas Women Artists: Selections from Bywaters Special Collections, on the 2nd floor of Hamon Arts Library.

Evaline Clarke Sellors was born in Fort Worth, Texas on August 30, 1903.  She began taking art classes at age eight with Christina MacLean, artist and former instructor at Fort Worth University, and later enrolled in the prep school for girls at Texas Women’s College Academy (now Texas Wesleyan College) where she studied with Samuel Ziegler, a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.  When she was only 17, her work, Still Life, was accepted into the exhibition The Eleventh Annual Exhibition of Selected Paintings by Texas Artists at the Fort Work Museum of Art (now the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth).  Sellors continued her studies at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts at Washington University from 1921 to 1923. There she first enrolled in an illustration class but changed to a modeling class taught by Victor Holm. Her work was exhibited at the St. Louis Museum of Fine Arts in 1921 (most likely the exhibition Work by Students of the St. Louis School of Fine Arts, March, 1921).  She later enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where she twice won the William Emlen Cresson scholarship (1929 and 1930) to study sculpture in Europe.  Her professors at the academy included the sculptors Charles Allan Grafly, Jr. and Albert Laessle.  For several years Sellors exhibited her sculpture at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts – 1928 (Bobby), 1929 (Head), 1931 (Mountain Goat), and 1932 (William).

The 1930s was a productive period for Sellors.  Upon her return to Fort Worth she rapidly established herself as both an artist and art educator.  In 1932, she and fellow artists Blanche McVeigh and Sallie Gillespie established the Texas School of Arts (renamed the Fort Worth School of Fine Arts the following year) to provide professional training in the fine arts to adult students. In 1934, her sculpture Lieutenant-Commander Frank Hawks (World War I pilot and flier of experimental aircraft in the 1920s and 1930s) was exhibited at the National Academy of Design in New York City.  In the same year Sellors was hired by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to create a bronze bust of Al Hayne for the monument named after the Fort Worth hero who saved lives in the Texas Spring Palace fire in 1890. During the Texas Centennial in 1936, Sellors’s work E. M. Dagget was on view at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Dagget was one of Fort Worth’s pioneering citizens. Two years later, she was hired by the WPA to create relief sculpture for Fort Worth structures, including Farrington Field stadium on University Drive.  The figures of the two athletes on the face of the stadium include stylized shapes of a football player and a young girl relay track sprinter. Many have speculated that the football player may have been inspired by Samuel Adrian “`Slingin’ Sammy” Baugh, a TCU football star from 1934 – 1936.  Sellors did watch films of Sam Baugh, but created her bas-relief sculpture as a typical football player rather than a particular person.  Among other works created by Sellors for the WPA is the cast stone plaque of a ‘cubistic’ longhorn installed at Fort Worth’s North Side High School.

With the onset of World War II, the Fort Worth School of Fine Arts closed and Sellors began working at North American Aviation, where she was an instructor in the Pattern Department.  She did not, however, abandon her craft.  In 1943, Sellors joined artists Dorothy Austin, Octavio Medellin, and Allie Tennant to organize the Texas Sculptors Group, which held its first annual exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, later the Dallas Museum of Art, in Fair Park.

After the war, Sellors continued with her sculpture, ceramics, mosaics, and stained glass, accepting commissions from private clients as well as public and religious organizations.  Her art can be viewed today at various places in Fort Worth: the Colonial Country Club, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, Beth-El Congregation, and the memorial to Al Hayne located close to the downtown area.  Sellors exhibited her work extensively during the 1940s through the 1980s.  In 1948, The Fort Worth Art Association hosted Sellors’s first solo show at the Fort Worth Public Library gallery, and in 1962 the Association hosted a second solo show at the Fort Worth Art Center.  Nationally her work was represented in museums and galleries including the National Ceramic Exhibition (Syracuse, New York), Knoedler Gallery (New York), and the Museum of Contemporary Crafts (now the Museum of Arts and Design in New York).  Today her work is represented at numerous museums in Texas, including the Amon Carter Museum (Fort Worth), Dallas Museum of Art, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Witte Museum (San Antonio).

Throughout her career, Sellors taught art classes in both Dallas and Fort Worth. Teaching mainly sculpture and ceramics, she held classes at the Craft Guild of Dallas, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts School, Dallas Public Evening School, Crozier Technical High School (Dallas), Fort Worth Art Association, Fort Worth Art Center School, and the Fort Worth Children’s Museum.  Between 1933 – 1941, Sellors commuted from Fort Worth to Dallas to teach her classes – first on the ‘Interurban’ rail line and then on the bus. In 1946, she was hired by the Fort Worth Art Association to teach clay modeling to elementary students and two years later she began offering ceramic classes to adults. In 1954, the association established a museum art school where Sellors continued to teach until the school was closed in the early 1970s.  In 1971, the Craft Guild of Dallas honored Sellors by making her a life-time honorary member for “her long and outstanding contributions to the Guild and to the advancement of the crafts in the Dallas – Fort Worth area.”

Until 1948, Sellors kept a studio in the family home located in east Fort Worth.  After the death of her parents, she moved her studio into the garage of her west Fort Worth home until her eyesight began to fail and she could no longer work.  She died May 17, 1995.

Featured image: Evaline Sellors with the fired clay bust she made of Octavio Medellin, ca. 1960s

Blog article and image courtesy of Evaline Sellors Art work and Papers, Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University

Texas Women Artists: Selections from Bywaters Special Collections on view at the Hamon Arts Library, 2nd floor, until August 5, 2018.

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