Friday, October 30, 2015

The Texas Art Collectors Organization

I recently spoke to a meeting of the Texas Art Collectors Organization about the life and career of Allie Tennant. Members of this group are all avid collectors and afficiados of early Texas art. Some of them have impressive personal collections that contain works by many noted artists from the southwestern region. I also the chance to sign a number of books. It was a pleasure to talk before this fine group. Some of the members who attended my presentation kindly posed with me during the event.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

First Book Signing at the East Texas Historical Association.

It was my pleasure to sign copies of this book for the first time at the fall meeting of the East Texas Historical Association in Nacogdoches.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ruthe Winegarten Women in Texas History Series -- Texas A&M University Press

This volume is the first publication in a new book series from the Texas A&M University Press honoring Ruthe Winegarten, a pioneer historian of women in Texas. The Ruthe Winegarten Memorial Foundation is sponsoring this series. Click Here for the Web Site of the Foundation.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Tennant's "Tejas Warrior" Sculpture is the official logo of the Dallas Historical Society.

Allie Tennant's iconic sculpture graces the main entrance portico of the Hall of State Building at Fair Park in Dallas, the long-time home of the Dallas Historical Society. A graphic of this sculpture is the official logo of the DHS. Click here for the Dallas Historical Society Web Site.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tennant's Sculpture of the black cat "Pretty Boy Floyd"

Allie Tennant had a great sense of humor. In the 1930s she adopted a stray cat that appeared at her Dallas home. She named  it in honor of the then well-known gangster Pretty Boy Floyd. Allie grew close to the cat and sculpted it in Belgium marble.

Kurt Noell and Light Cummins pose with Allie Tennant's "Pretty Boy Floyd"

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Suanne Shafer, Author, blogs about Allie Tennant

Suanne Shafer, an author from San Antonio, is blogging about women in Early Texas Art. She recently turned her attention to Allie Tennant. Click here for a link to that blog entry.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Allie Tennant at the Southland Paper Mill

In 1938 Tennant made a bas-relief plaque for the main offices of the Southland Paper Mill in Lufkin Texas. It memorialized the contributions of Francis P. Garvin and Charles Holmes Herty, two scientists who invented the process to make paper from pine pulp. This mill was the first to use this process. This plaque is today in the collection of the Texas Forestry Museum in Lufkin.

Tennant poses with the paper mill plaque in her Dallas studio

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Lone Star Regionalism

Lone Star Regionalism by Rick Stewart

This book, published in 1985 by Rick Stewart, remains today a ground-breaking study of the Regional art movement in Texas. Stewart's solid research and deep understanding of Regionalism make this volume the essential starting-place for anyone interested in learning about the artists who worked in this school of expression during the 1930s. Regionalism as an intellectual concept gained great currency in American life during the 1920s and 1930s. Its artistic orientation proved to be narrative and descriptive. As such, it was allied with the American Scene then popularized by artists including Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, and James Stuart Curry. It gained currency in Dallas during the 1930s. Texas Regionalists centered their art on themes sometimes filled with “country folks and pastoral landscapes.” Regionalism was movement that celebrated the common folk while at the same time it sought to include them as part of its intended audience, especially in the area of public art. This proved a comfortable notion for Allie Tennant because her artistic training had always valued the social importance of public art. As did other Regionalists, she saw such artistic expression as art for the people, drawn from the wellsprings of the people themselves, celebrating the role of the common person. Rick Stewart's book provides a full discussion of this movement in Texas.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Texas Centennial Highlights (1936)

The Dallas Central Centennial Exposition of 1936

Two of Allie Tennant's sculptural works are associated with the Central Centennial Exposition at Dallas: the Tejas Warrior located above the entrance to the Hall of State and the mural at the Dallas Aquarium. The Tejas Warrior appears on the cover of Allie Victoria Tennant and the Visual Arts in Dallas, the book that is the subject around which this blog is oriented. The centennial exposition at Dallas attracted world-wide attention. President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the fair grounds in June of 1936, making a speech from the center field of the Cotton Bowl stadium. Promoters of the Central Centennial Exposition at Dallas made a sound motion picture highlighting the proceedings of the fair. Thanks to the resources of the Texas Archive of the Moving Image, that film is now available online for free viewing.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Allie Tennant and Vivian Aunspaugh

Dallas art teacher Vivian Aunspaugh (1869-1960) was one of Tennant's first art teachers. Aunspaugh had studied in the late nineteenth century at the Art Student’s League in New York City with later trips to Paris and Rome for additional training. She arrived in Dallas in 1891 where she became a local artist but decided to found a private art academy. Founded in 1902, this school was the first to offer classes that involved sketching a nude model, although only male students could engage in such activity.
Vivian Louise Aunspaugh at her easel
Allie Tennant first took instruction from Aunspaugh while a high school student. The elder artist taught Tennant at the art school operated by Kathryn Lester Crawford. Then, when that school closed, Tennant enrolled at the academy operated by Aunspaugh. Vivian Aunspaugh lived to age 91. She and Allie Tennant enjoyed a friendship that lasted for over fifty years. Read more about Aunspaugh at the Handbook of Texas or on the blog entry by Dr. Suanne Shafer. Today the papers of Vivian Aunspaugh are conserved as part of the archival holdings of the Jerry Bywaters Collection at the Hamon Art Library of SMU in Dallas. Click here to learn more about that collection.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Tennant and the 1936 Dallas Aquarium

The 1936 Dallas Aquarium where Allie Tennant did the mural over the entrance way
and also the seahorse sculptures along the exterior walls
Planning for the Centennial Exposition at Fair Park included the construction of an indoor aquarium for the City of Dallas. This new facility would replace a smaller public aquarium previously located in the Dallas Gas Building which was operated by the Dallas Aquarium Society. Planned in late 1935, several architects worked on this building, including Thomas Broad who was a friend of Allie Tennant. They had worked together at the Dallas Art Institute. Broad awarded Tennant a commission to execute a maritime-theme mural inside the entrance portico, seen in the above image from 1936. Tennant also sculpted the seahorse bas reliefs seen above in the upper part of the inserts along the exterior walls. Thirty years later, when a new wing was added to the building, craftsmen carefully made new seahorses to match those crafted by Tennant. This building is still a public aquarium. It underwent an 8 million dollar renovation in 2010.

A portion of the Aquarium mural as it appears today

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Edward Francis McCartan

Edward Francis McCartan, Tennant's mentor
at the Art Student's League

Edward Francis McCartan, an internationally-celebrated sculptor who taught at the Art Student's League in New York City, became Allie Tennant's faculty mentor during the time she studied there in the late 1920s. He would have a profound influence on Tennant’s development as an artist, especially in the area of public sculpture. McCartan was popularly acclaimed at the time as the person who had designed the iconic hood ornament used on automobiles manufactured in the 1920s and 1930s by the Packard Motor Car Company.

This is the iconic hood ornament designed by McCartan for Packard automobiles
A native of Albany, New York he had grown up in Brooklyn and studied at the Pratt Institute where he worked with Herbert Adams.  In 1901, he entered the Art Student's League where studied with George Gray Bernard. He also apprenticed as a young sculptor with the famed Karl Bitter at the latter’s studio in Hoboken, New Jersey. Bitter had been one of the leading sculptors at Chicago’s Columbian Exhibition. Within a few years, McCartan had become an accomplished sculptor in his own right. His first major commission came with the 1906 heroic-sized portrait in bronze of Benito Juarez in Monterrey, Mexico after which he traveled to Paris for additional study at the École des Beaux-Arts. By 1910, McCartan had returned to New York City where he taught at the Art Students League for the remainder of his career. There he established a noted expertise in doing garden and fountain sculpture.

Frank Klepper and Allie Tennant

Allie Tennant and Frank Klepper were professional colleagues and friends for almost fifty years. Frank Klepper (1890-1952) was a McKinney, Texas native who spent most of his life as an artist in Dallas. He also taught studio classes during the early 1930s at the Kidd-Key College in Sherman. He founded the Frank Klepper Art Club that still meets today in Dallas. Klepper taught a  considerable number of private art students from the 1920s until the 1950s. Some of them, including the etcher James Swann,
Allie Tennant's 1929 portrait bust of artist Frank Klepper
became artists of considerable reputation. Tennant and Klepper taught together at the Dallas Art Institute and in the evening division of the Dallas Independent School District's continuing education program. In 1929 Tennant executed a bronze bust of her friend Frank Klepper. Exhibited in the State Fair Art Show of that year, this prize winning piece now resides in the collection of the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts in McKinney. Click here to read about Klepper in the Handbook of Texas.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Center for the Advancement and Study of Texas Art --CASETA

As the website of this organization notes: "The mission of the Center for the Advancement and Study of Early Texas Art is to promote the preservation, study and appreciation of Texas visual arts and its history." In reality CASETA, as it is popularly known, is not a physical center with a dedicated building or actual location. Instead, it is an organization that brings together scholars, collectors, museum professionals, librarians, curators, gallery personnel, and others who have an interest in early Texas art. It defines early Texas art as any work produced forty years before the present date. CASETA holds an annual meeting at a varied location during the late spring that brings together its members to hear presentations about Texas artists, art history, and developments in the field. I presented a talk at CASETA dealing with Allie Tennant and her sculpture three years ago. The organization also sponsors an art exhibition at its annual meeting where dealers in early Texas art make works available for purchase. The group as well sponsors a series of art related events across the rest of the year while its newsletter provides a clearing house of information for its members regarding events related to early Texas art. The offices are based at the San Angelo Museum of  Fine Arts. Howard Taylor serves as executive director of CASETA.

Click Here for the website of CASETA

Monday, May 11, 2015

The New Regionalism of the 1930s and 1940s


The group of Dallas artists to which Allie Tennant belonged had become strongly committed starting in the late 1920s to the Regional movement then sweeping intellectual circles throughout the nation and Western Europe. As a Regionalist, Allie Tennant subscribed to most all of the attributes above, all of which formed part of the credo of this movement. For Allie Tennant and the other Dallas artists caught up in the movement, Regionalism was definitely not a home-grown concept, but instead had deep roots across the nation and elsewhere around the world. Art, for Regionalists, had to be made accessible to all people in society. Many Texas historians, writers, artists, musicians, photographers, and others involved in creative activities glorified the Regional experience. As did Tennant, they used Texas themes to inform their work. The first well-known, nationally-recognized artists who became practitioners of this new Regionalism during the 1930s were not Texans, but instead mid-westerners. Grant Wood, John Steuart Curry, and Thomas Hart Benton all received much publicity early in the decade as artists whose work existed at the forefront of this movement.

For an introduction to Regionalism as related to Grant Wood, click here.

The Navarro Sculpture at Corsicana, 1938

Allie Tennant poses with the model of her Navarro monument
Allie Tennant sculpted a statue of Jose de Navarro as part of the State of Texas Centennial celebration. It was dedicated in the fall of 1938. A number of luminaries gathered in Corsicana for its formal unveiling on October 3rd. Richard Mays served as master of ceremonies. United States Senator Tom Connelly gave the major address of dedication with additional remarks delivered by Congressman Luther Johnson. Corsicana native Buford Jester, who was then serving on the University of Texas Board of Regents and would later be the governor of Texas, formally presented Allie Tennant a huge bouquet of golden chrysanthemums. A modest public speaker, she demurred politely from making extensive remarks at the dedication and instead said only that she wished her work to speak for itself

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Cornish Portrait Bust, 1931

In the fall of 1931, Tennant received a commission to make a memorial portrait bust from Mrs. Hilda Cornish of Little Rock, Arkansas. Mrs. Cornish was the widow of a prominent banker, Ed Cornish, who had been President of the American Bank of Commerce, the largest financial institution in Arkansas. Mr. Cornish had been a respected member of the community. He and his wife lived in one of the most palatial homes in Little Rock. Sadly, Cornish had suffered financial losses in the fall of 1928 and taken his life while staying in a New Orleans hotel, an action no doubt caused by despondency over his business situation. Nevertheless, Mrs. Cornish had inherited a considerable estate and it was her desire to place a bust of her late husband at his gravesite in the Oakland Cemetery at Little Rock. Accordingly, she traveled to Dallas and engaged Allie for the task. Tennant did her preliminary research on Mr. Cornish and completed her clay model at her Live Oak Street studio. After a few months, the bust was ready to be shipped to the foundry where it was cast in bronze. In the late spring of 1931, Tennant traveled to Little Rock where she supervised its placement in the cemetery. It was an interesting piece because it had a golden bronze patina and was set on a pink marble pedestal. In a later era, this gravesite became well-known in Arkansas, and not for the portrait bust. After her husband’s death Mrs. Cornish subsequently had a very public career in advocating birth control in the South, thus earning a title as the “Mother of Birth Control in Arkansas.” She died in 1965 and is today also buried in the plot which is marked by Tennant’s portrait bust.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Howard W. Odum, a 1930s Voice for Regionalism

Sociologist Howard W. Odum of the University of North Carolina
Dallas Regionalist artists including Allie Tennant found satisfaction in the work of  sociologist Howard Odum. He is today considered one of the most significant intellectuals associated during the 1930s with Regionalism. In 1938, Odum of the University of North Carolina and Harry S. Moore of University of Texas at Austin, published a seminal volume entitled American Regionalism that defined the parameters of this viewpoint and articulated its intellectual credo. Odum and Moore noted that "Regionalism is in reality the opposite of its most common interpretation, namely, localism, sectionalism, or provincialism." They observed that "Regionalism connotes unity in a total national composition, while sectionalism with its separatism is inherently different." Dallas artist Jerry Bywaters echoed this observation when he wrote about Regionalism by saying “the truth is that artists found nationalism before the politicians."

To learn more about Odum, see the webpage of the Howard W. Odum Institute at the University of North Carolina. Click Here

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Who Were the Regional Artists?

The Regionalists were a varied group of Texas artists who lived mostly in the Dallas area during the late 1920s and 1930s, although some lived much farther away including Tom Lea from El Paso. Some of these artists from Tennant’s circle were branded with a term that subsequently came into widespread, popular usage to denote the entire Regional movement: the “Dallas Nine.” This originated with a 1932 showing of Regional paintings at the Dallas Public Art Gallery. The exhibit highlighted the work of nine Dallas artists, all men and all easel painters, each of whom was a self-described Regionalist. The artists in this show were Jerry Bywaters, John Douglass, Buck Winn, Otis Dozier, Lloyd Goff, Perry Nichols, William Lester, Everett Spruce, and Charles L. McCann. "The Dallas Nine” constituted, as art historian Rick Stewart explained decades later, “a larger group of painters” who embraced the Regionalist viewpoint. Some women in fact belonged to the community of Dallas artists comprising this school of expression. Florence McClung, Dorothy Austin, Coreen Mary Spellman and several of her colleagues in the Art Department of the female college at Denton; Stella L. LaMond at East Texas State Teacher’s College and then S.M.U.; Blanche McVeigh and Evaline Sellors -- all lived and worked in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area of North Texas during the 1930s. Significant among these women, of course, was Allie Tennant, who emerged as the most prominent female Regionalist artist in Dallas and who was likely the best-known of them to the general public.
Many of the artists pictured in this 1931 image were Regionalists, including
Allie Tennant who is number 14

Read about the Dallas Nine in the Handbook of Texas. ClickHere

Monday, January 12, 2015

SMU Central Libraires Digital Archives of Texas Art

The Central Libraries of Southern Methodist University maintains an online archive of images relating to early Texas art. This is a cooperative venture with the Bywaters Collection of the Hamon Arts Library at SMU, the Meadows Museum of SMU, the Dallas Public Library, and the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin -- all of whom have contributed high quality images. It is possible to search by several parameters including the name of the artists. There are three distinct online collections at this site which pertain to early Texas art.

Texas Artists: Paintings, Sculpture, and Works on Paper

Octavio Medellin: Works of Art and Artistic Processes

Otis Dozier Sketchbooks