Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Bywaters Collection of the Hamon Arts Library at SMU

Sam Ratcliffe, Director, and Ellen Niewyk, Curator, at the
Bywaters Collection of SMU

Allie Tennant left no personal papers. It was therefore necessary to research her life for this book in the files of the organizations to which she belonged, from the public record, and in the papers of the people with whom she corresponded. Research for this volume relied significantly on the important holdings of the Jerry Bywaters Collection of the Hamon Arts Library at SMU. There, Sam DeShong Ratcliffe, Director, and Ellen Buie Niewyk, Curator, provided me with full access to their collections, affording me immeasurable assistance during every phase of my research. I am also indebted to Emily Grubbs George at the collection for bringing to my attention items that I otherwise would not have known about. The archival collections at the Bywaters constitutes an incomparable source for the study of Texas art. Jerry Bywaters, whose papers compose the foundation of its holdings, was a well-organized person of great historical awareness who saved all manner of papers, records, and written materials dealing with Texas art for much of the twentieth century. The comprehensive and computerized indexes to these items made it possible to use this archival collection very efficiently. The ease of access permitted by these computerized finding aids saving me many days of page-turning, instead providing quick and easy access to relevant documents in ways heretofore impossible before the existence of digitized finding aids.

Click Here for the website of the Bywaters Collection at SMU

Friday, November 21, 2014

Light Cummins Speaks at Re-Dedication of Tennant's Bonham Scultpure

Light Cummins at the Re-Dedication of the restored
Allie Tennant sculpture of James Butler Bonham

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Allie Tennant Loved Cars

Allie Tennant at the wheel of the 1934 Bentley Drop Head Coupe, circa 1965

At various times in the 1950s and 1960s, Allie’s nephew Herbert Tennant, Jr. lived with her at her home on Live Oak Street in Dallas. He enjoyed restoring classic Rolls Royce and Bentley automobiles as a pastime, so the driveway was sometimes clogged with auto parts and equipment. Allie enjoyed driving these distinctive cars around Dallas, especially a rare 1934 Bentley drop-head coupĂ© that proved a special favorite of hers. For everyday use, however, she was also accustomed to owning a late model Cadillac sedan she traded every few years for a new one at the Lone Star Motors on Ross Avenue.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Tea and Exhibition honoring artist Frank Reaugh held 84 Years Ago Today

Eighty four years ago today, Allie Tennant assisted in arranging for a tea and exhibition honoring Dallas Artist Frank Reaugh These affairs were sponsored by the Highland Park Society of Fine Arts on September 28, 1930. Tennant served as a hostess for the tea honoring Reaugh, which was held at the home of Mrs. A. H. Bailey. The exhibition was located several blocks away in the gallery room of the Highland Park Town Hall. Allie Tennant served as a member of the “Hanging Committee” that mounted the show. Tennant and her committee placed Reaugh’s famous group of seven paintings, known as “Twenty-Four Hours with the Herd,” on the stage with special dramatic lighting. The regionalist composer David Guion wrote a special musical program based on popular cowboy songs. Robert Miller, a local singer, sang them to the accompaniment of a violin. Thereafter, a story teller entertained the guests with a selection of stories based on the paintings.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jerry Bywaters: A Life in Art

Dr. Francine Carraro's biography of Dallas artist Jerry Bywaters provides a solid introduction to the art scene of the city throughout much of the 20th century. Bywaters, who was a Regionalist, had many professional contacts with Allie Tennant. In fact, the two of them shared much of their artistic careers in the city. Bywaters and Tennant both attended classes at the Art Students League in the later 1920s, returned to Dallas where they both became very active in the Regionalist art movement, and worked together in building the Dallas Museum of Fine arts. Bywaters served as the Director of the Museum during most of the time that Allie Tennant was a member of the institution's board of trustees. In particular, they cooperated during the mid-1950s when anti-communist fervor attempted to remove various works of art from the Museum's collection. This book by Cararro highlights many important developments in the arts community of Dallas and fully assessed the significant role Jerry Bywaters played in them.

By Francine Carraro

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Dallas Woman's Forum

The Dallas Woman's Forum's headquarters in Dallas
Allie Tennant enjoyed a close association with the Dallas Woman's Forum during the early years of her career.The forum had been established in 1906 as Dallas’s first “department” women’s club, which meant that its membership belonged to one or more different sections according to their interests. The art department was one of these divisions.Tennant’s art teacher, Dallas artist Vivian Aunspaugh, became in 1909 the person who arranged the programs of the Woman’s Forum art department, a paid position she would hold for over twenty years. This was likely the reason by a young Allie Tennant became involved in the art department. In 1911 the Forum decided to hold an annual exhibition of Texas paintings “as part of the organization’s educational offering and to give encouragement to young aspiring artists as well as recognition to those who had already achieved success.” This annual show became a major art event for Dallas for over a decade thereafter. Tennant’s first venue for showing her art publicly took place at the one of Forum’s annual art exhibitions.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Allie Tennant Hosts an Art Fundraiser, 1957

Allie Tennant was active for many decades in her support of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. In 1957 the Dallas Museum League sponsored a bus tour to raise money during which donors could tour studios of female artists including Allie Tennant, Evaline Sellors, Vivian Aunspaugh, and several others. On a Sunday afternoon in October, those participating were whisked around Dallas by bus, including a stop at Tennant’s studio on Live Oak Street. The Dallas Morning News featured a photograph of the participants walking along the fence in front of Tennant’s studio as they made their way inside. This studio tour proved to be a very successful event for the museum in terms of raising funds. It raised almost $2,000 and the organizers reported “the tour was far more successful than they had anticipated.”

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tennant at the Art Students League in New York City, 1927-1928

The faculty at the Art Students League during
the era when Allie Tennant was a student

Allie Tennant enrolled at the Art Students League during fall of 1927 and remained for most of 1928. Her second year there overlapped with young Dallas artist, Jerry Bywaters, who had also arrived in New York City to study at the school. She initially took studio classes at the Art Students League that involved both drawing and sculpture. Throughout her first year she diligently studied anatomy and attended sketching courses taught by noted illustrator George Brant Bridgman, one of the most celebrated members of the faculty. Much of the accurate detail later seen in Allie’s sculptural portraits no doubt came from her studies with Bridgman, who would later become well-known as Norman Rockwell’s artistic mentor. Although she excelled in drawing as a Bridgman student, Allie’s primary emphasis remained sculpture. She nonetheless thrived in Bridgman’s classes, noting "there is no conceptual difference between painting and sculpture" in terms of the concentration necessary for success. By her second year, she concentrated entirely on sculpture, learning from Arthur Lee, William Zorach, and Edward McCartan.

Where Allie Tennant studied: The Art Students League
at 251 W. 57th Street, New York City


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Allie Tennant's Dallas Studio

The Sitting Room of Allie Tennant's Studio, circa 1939
with some of her favorite pieces

In the mid-1920s Allie Tennant built a studio located in the backyard of her family’s home on Live Oak Street. Dallas architect Walter Sharp designed the studio. He created an “Old English” building of the cottage style with a large work room located on the northern end of the structure so placed to catch the best natural light. The studio had "a vaulted ceiling, large north windows, and had shelves and niches for her work lining the walls." It also sported a large and gracious fireplace for winter heat. Tennant particularly liked the design of the studio because of its large north window. “North light is liked by all artists,” she once explained to a journalist interviewing her, “because there is no sunshine with it.” This building would be her studio for the remainder of her life, with all of her best-known work created there. She displayed many of her pieces on pedestals around the sitting room located at one end of the building.
Exterior of Allie Tennant's studio as it appears today

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tennant's 1939 Exhibiton at the Hockaday School in Dallas

Tennant's 1939 portrait bust of Hockaday's Mariam Morgan
In 1939 the Hockaday School sponsored an art show in honor of Allie Tennant, who had close ties to this prestigious Dallas school for girls. Its head, Ella Hockaday, served with Tennant on the board of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Allie’s long-time friend and fellow southwestern Regionalist, Alexandre Hogue, taught at the school where he served as chair of the art department.  Allie had recently sculpted a bronze portrait bust of Miriam Morgan, the beloved head of the residential department at the Hockaday School. This show highlighted that portrait of Morgan. The organizers dealt imaginatively with a problem that soon emerged in assembling an exhibition of Tennant’s work; namely, many of her most important sculptures were public art and of heroic size or garden pieces permanently affixed en situ, thus making it impossible to have the actual items in the show. Tennant solved this by furnishing large photographs of many of these pieces, which Hogue and his exhibition committee placed in the display area intermixed with smaller examples of her work which could be brought to the exhibition hall at the school. Critics raved about the Hockaday exhibit, noting that it constituted the most complete collection of the sculptor’s work that had ever been assembled in Dallas at one location to that date.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Allie Tennant Rests in the Oakland Cemetery, Dallas

Allie Tennant fell ill during the spring of 1971. She stayed at her home on Live Oak Street during much of her final illness across the summer and autumn months of that year, but eventually went to the hospital for better treatment. Allie Victoria Tennant passed away on December 19, 1971.  Sadly, she died largely forgotten by the public and press which had closely chronicled her sculpting career during earlier decades. The Dallas Morning News, for example, carried only a short, single paragraph notice of her death that made no mention of her artistic career or other accomplishments. Like her parents and brothers, she too was laid to rest in the family plot at the Oakland Cemetery, surrounded by many business and social leaders from the Dallas elite who she had known across the course of her life.