William Lewis Lester was born in Graham, Texas in 1910. In 1924, he moved to Dallas with his family and attended Bryan Street High School. Lester spent his senior year at Woodrow Wilson High School where he graduated in 1929. By 1931, Lester was already showing his work with other Dallas artists, such as Jerry Bywaters, Alexandre Hogue, and Reveau Bassett at the Joseph Sartor Galleries in Dallas. A year later, he would have a one-man show at the gallery. In February 1932, Lester and his contemporaries exhibited paintings at the Dallas Public Art Gallery, then temporally located on the second floor of the Majestic Theatre Building on Elm Street, under the title, Exhibition of Young Dallas Painters (All young men under thirty years of age). The New York City-based magazine, The Art Digest, published an article entitled “Young Texans, All Under 30, Show in Dallas” in their March 15, 1932 issue. It attests to the vitality of that current Dallas art scene:
The future of a community’s art interests rests to a large extent upon the development of its youthful artists. Realizing this, the Dallas Public Art Gallery recently arranged a group show of paintings by nine young Dallas artists, none of them older than 30. The interest the public showed and the encouragement given the “Nine” including – Gerald Bywaters, John Douglass, Otis Dozier, Lloyd Goff, William Lester, Charles McCann, Perry Nichols, Everett Spruce – gives an indication of the aliveness of artistic creation in the Texas city.
Several of these Texas regionalist artists formed a solid bond and promoted their interpretation of austere Texas and Southwest landscapes and everyday scenes through their paintings and prints. Lester became known for his scenes of arid landscapes and everyday life in the southwest, mainly Texas and Oklahoma. Lester’s early work reflects the group’s style and subject matter, which he continued through the 1940s. In the 1950s, his work took a turn toward the abstract, an approach to painting that Lester chose to develop throughout the remaining years of his career. The William Lester collection includes artwork, clippings, correspondence, documents, photographs, publicity, and published works relating to his art and teaching career at the University of Texas at Austin.
Please take a look at the detailed finding aid available through Texas Archival Resources Online here:
Image: Courtesy of William Lester artwork and papers,Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University