Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Waldine Tauch, Texas Sculptor

Waldine Tauch, 1936. She and Allie Tennant both worked on
Centennial Sculptures
This week I presented a paper at the fall meeting of the East Texas Historical Association. This presentation dealt with another female sculptor from the era of the Texas Centennial: Waldine Tauch. She knew Allie Victoria Tennant. Both of them worked on centennial projects as female sculptors. Tennant modeled two sculptures for the monuments program of the centennial: Jose Antonio Navarro and James Butler Bonham. Tauch executed the sculptor of Moses Austin that sits on the grounds of the San Antonio City Hall. My paper dealt with the efforts of Tauch to secure the commission to model a statue of the Pioneer Woman that today is located on the campus of Texas Woman's University in Denton, Texas. Tauch became involved in a very public controversy when the commission for this statue went to New York sculptor William Zorach. Waldine Tauch felt strongly this sculpture should be the work of a female artist and certainly not that of a male sculptor. She wanted badly to be person who sculpted it. Accordingly, she undertook a campaign designed to award her this commission. She contacted leading politicians, cultural figures, civic leaders, and educators across the state in her attempt to secure this contract, even to the point of attempting to enlist the support of J. Frank Dobie.  Tauch wrote a long memorial to the Centennial Commission outlining her views about the history of women in Texas and detailing why a female sculptor ought to receive this commission, pointing out in some detail why she should be the person selected to do it. This rather lengthy document represents an interesting expression of how one significant female artist of the 1930s saw the history of women in Texas. In the end, a male sculptor, William Zorach, received the commission. Tauch and her supporters thereupon embarked on a campaign of criticism and public complaint against his plans for the sculpture. They loudly objected because the model proposed by Zorach was highly stylized and abstract to the point, they said, it depicted a women without visible clothing – a statue of a nude women. This thus provoked a state-wide barrage of negative publicity and strident vituperation against the proposed Zorach statue planned for female college in Denton. The State of Texas accordingly pulled Zorach’s commission and gave it to a male sculptor from New York, who made the fully-clothed statue that still stands today on the TWU campus. This “nude women controversy” and Waldine Tauch’s role in it says for the historian much about how women were perceived in that era, and how one female sculptor attempted – albeit unsuccessfully – to express her viewpoints about the historical role of women in Texas and its history. This paper is based on research in the Coppini-Tauch Papers at the Briscoe Center at the University of Texas, the Evaline Sellors Papers at the Old Jail Art Center and Archives, and the Women’s Collection at TWU.