Collection spotlight: William Lester artwork and papers

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

Who is Jerry Bywaters?

The Jerry Bywaters Special Collections at the Hamon Arts Library is an archival collection of art, documents, and other rare or unique materials largely from the Southwest region. But who is the man for this eponymously-named collection, Jerry Bywaters?

Jerry Bywaters (1906 – 1989) filled many roles in the development of the arts in Texas and the Southwest.  He was, in addition to being an artist, director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, chairman of the Division of Fine Arts at Southern Methodist University and director of its Pollock Gallery.  Throughout his career, Bywaters worked to strengthen awareness of Texas and the Southwest art arena, and to define the unique qualities that set it apart from other regions.  He taught and influenced many people, including other artists, art historians, those associated with Texas and Dallas museums, SMU art department faculty members, and countless students.  Bywaters donated his archival material to SMU at intervals from 1980 until his death in 1989.  Later the Bywaters family decided to give the rest of his archives, which had been stored in his home, to SMU.  In 1990, the collection was relocated to the new Jake and Nancy Hamon Arts Library and housed in the appropriately named Jerry Bywaters Special Collections Wing, constructed with funds from the Margaret and Eugene McDermott Foundation of Dallas.

Bywaters graduated from SMU with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Journalism in 1926 and the following year received another Bachelor of Arts degree in General Literature.    It was not until his last year in college, when he took an elective course in painting from Ralph Rowntree (1889 – 1992), a respected artist and art instructor at SMU, that Bywaters began to think about a career in art.   In a 1940 letter to Carl Zigrosser, then director of the Weyhe Gallery in New York and soon to become curator of Prints and Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Bywaters writes:

Last year in college I took an elective art course and that set me off into the unknown field.  Still evading things I went to Europe and liked the wrong kind of art, studied under the wrong teachers at the League in N. Y. (except Sloan).  I was still too young to know what I wanted (21) and my folks were too good to me about travel.  Trip to Mexico in 1928 started me thinking at last.  Rivera and Orozco etc. were just starting. 

In the early 1920s Bywaters began collecting art and museum catalogs, clippings, correspondence and photographs focusing on the cultural history of Texas, Dallas, and the Southwest, and continued to do so during his career as an artist, critic, curator, museum director, and teacher.  This material helps shed new light on the historical development of Bywaters’s career and the development of the arts in Dallas.  The Jerry Bywaters Collection on Art of the Southwest also contains works on paper by Bywaters and a few of his contemporaries  including Thomas Hart Benton, Charles Bowling, Don Brown, Mary Doyle, Otis Dozier, Edward G. Eisenlohr, Alexandre Hogue, DeForrest Judd, William Lester, Blanche McVeigh, Merritt Mauzey, Perry Nichols, Boardman Robinson, Everett Spruce, Thomas M. Stell, Jr., and Janet Turner. This collection and many others are located in the Bywaters Special Collections Wing, named in his honor.

To view the online holdings and artists represented in Bywaters Special Collections, please visit

Image: Jerry Bywaters, self-portrait, 1969, pencil on paper; Paper: 30 x 24 inches, Gift of Pat Bywaters, Katie Bywaters Cummings, and Leigh Bywaters Swanson (JB.09.2).

Courtesy of the Jerry Bywaters Collection on Art of the Southwest, Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University.

Continue reading “Who is Jerry Bywaters?”

Bywaters Special Collections Artist Profile: Cecilia Neuheisel Steinfeldt

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

Cecilia Neuheisel Steinfeldt (1915 – 2013), referred to as the ‘First Lady of Texas Art’ for her work as both an artist and a Texas art historian, was born in Montello, Wisconsin and moved to San Antonio with her family in 1923.   Her aptitude for drawing and painting developed during childhood and she soon began art classes at the Witte Memorial Museum.  In 1932, she graduated from high school and then enrolled in art school in Mexico City where she studied with artist Carlos Mérida.  Upon returning to San Antonio, she joined the Witte museum staff in 1936 where she served as an art instructor.  She continued to work at the Witte Museum until her retirement at the age of 80.  Along with her husband Eric Steinfeld, she traveled throughout Texas and wrote numerous books about its history and artists including The Onderdonks: A Family of Texas Painters (1975), Art for History’s Sake (1993), and S. Seymour Thomas: A Texas Genius Rediscovered (2005).

Continue reading “Bywaters Special Collections Artist Profile: Cecilia Neuheisel Steinfeldt”

Collection Spotlight: Edward Gustav Eisenlohr art work and papers

Edward Gustav Eisenlohr was born in Ohio to a family of German immigrants. When he was two years old the family relocated to Dallas, where his father established Eisenlohr Drug Store. As a young boy living in Dallas, E. G. Eisenlohr showed a strong aptitude in art, a trait which continued into his adult life. He was instrumental in establishing the Dallas Art Association, forerunner of the Dallas Museum of Arts, in 1903. Eisenlohr studied art with Texas artists Robert J. Onderdonk and Frank Reaugh and at the Art Students’ League summer school in Woodstock, New York. He later took additional art training in Germany before returning to Texas. Eisenlohr drew inspiration for art subjects from the Oak Cliff area of Dallas and his travels to New Mexico, the Texas Hill Country, and the western areas of his adopted state. The collection includes artwork, clippings, correspondence, photographs, published works, scrapbooks, and three-dimensional objects reflecting his German family history and his interest in the landscape of the American Southwest. The matted works on paper consist of eleven lithographs, three pencil self-portraits, and one pencil sketch by fellow artist Ruth John Sanders.

Please take a look at the detailed finding aid available through Texas Archival Resources Online.

Image: Courtesy of Edward Gustav Eisenlohr art work and papers, Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University

Collection Spotlight: Vivian L. Aunspaugh Art Club records

The Vivian L. Aunspaugh Art Club was organized in 1945 by former and current students of Miss Vivian Louise Aunspaugh and others interested in studying art in Dallas. Miss Aunspaugh, a native of Virginia, studied art in New York and France prior to moving to Dallas in 1891. She soon taught art classes in local colleges and in 1898, with sculptress Clyde Chandler, established joint studio classes in Dallas. In 1902 the Aunspaugh Art School was founded in the Dreyfuss Building in downtown Dallas, the first art school in the southwest to offer classes in fine and commercial art. The following year Clyde Chandler moved to Chicago but Vivian Aunspaugh remained in Dallas and eventually moved the school to 3509 Bryan Street. Miss Aunspaugh taught art in Dallas for over 50 years until shortly before her death in 1960. The Vivian L. Aunspaugh Art Club met continuously until 1986, when the organization ceased operation. Continue reading “Collection Spotlight: Vivian L. Aunspaugh Art Club records”

Collection Spotlight: G. J. Signaigo collection of theater materials

George Joseph Signaigo was a prominent Dallas businessman who co-owned the Brannon-Signaigo Cigar Company of Texas. The majority of the material in this collection consists of theater programs that were collected over the course of Signaigo’s life. The collection includes correspondence, ephemera, manuscripts, publicity and published works relating to the theater ca. 1910-1930. Most of the material originates from Dallas, Texas, but there is also material from New York City and other states and cities.

Please take a look at the detailed finding aid available through Texas Archival Resources Online.

Image: Courtesy of G. J. Signaigo collection of theater materials Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University

Arts Management students tour Bywaters Special Collections

I have the pleasure of working with the International Arts Management graduate students here in Meadow’s Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship (AMAE) division. They represent a diverse mix of academic backgrounds and nationalities – coming out of film, theater, visual art, performing arts, or humanities backgrounds and originating from the United States, Europe, Canada, South America, Central America, Asia, and Australia.  These students are in Dallas only for the first semester of their program before traveling to study at HEC Montreal and SDA Bocconi in Milan with a two-week stopover in Bogota, Columbia.  Taking in everything they can from every place they study, they are obviously determined to gain a wide variety of experiences, and their visit to Hamon Arts Library was no different. Continue reading “Arts Management students tour Bywaters Special Collections”

Collection Spotlight: Evaline Sellors Art Work and Papers

Evaline Sellors (1903 – 1995) was an artist and teacher active in the Dallas and Fort Worth area mainly from the 1930s through the 1960s. Primarily known as a sculptor, she also worked in ceramics, mosaics, and stained glass. Her work can be found in museums and private collections in the north Texas area. Sellors was instrumental in helping establish the Fort Worth School of Fine Arts; some of her students later became promoters of modern art in the city and were referred to as “The Fort Worth School.” The collection consists of a photography portfolio containing images of her work and photographs of the individuals who presented Sellors with the portfolio. Two pencil drawings by fellow artist and colleague, Octavio Medellin, made when studying the ruins in Chichén Itzá in 1938, are part of the collection.

Please take a look at the detailed finding aid available through Texas Archival Resources Online.

Image: Courtesy of Evaline Sellors Art Work and Papers, Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University

DeForrest Judd, Sketches of Texas Regions – Big Bend, Caddo Lake, Gulf Coast

DeForrest H. Judd, a native of Hartsgrove, Ohio, lived most of his life in Dallas working as an artist and teaching at Southern Methodist University.  Judd’s keen observation of everyday life and nature influenced him to paint, draw, and print his interpretations onto canvas, paper, and copper enamels.  As a professional artist and teacher, Judd taught numerous students at SMU and summer workshops in Arkansas, New Mexico, and Texas. Continue reading “DeForrest Judd, Sketches of Texas Regions – Big Bend, Caddo Lake, Gulf Coast”

Strange inheritance

In the spring of 2009, I received a telephone call from Atlee Phillips, Texas art specialist at Dallas’s Heritage Auction Galleries.  Although I’d never met Atlee, she told me that I’d soon think of her as “my new best friend.”  A few days later, she arrived in my office with numerous photographs of a painting of the Battle of San Jacinto by Texas painter Henry Arthur McArdle (1836-1908).  Although I knew that this painting had been executed in 1901, I had assumed it to have been destroyed in a fire and had stated as much in a footnote in my 1992 book, Painting Texas History to 1900.  But Atlee’s photographs, taken by members of McArdle’s family, who owned the house in West Virginia where the painting had been stored in an attic since the 1950s, proved me wrong (fortunately).  In November 2010, Heritage auctioned the painting, which was purchased by a private collector in Texas. Continue reading “Strange inheritance”