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.