Otis Huband: A Consummate Artist

Otis Huband is a consummate artist in every sense of the word.  When engaged in conversation, he is very sociable and will talk about art in most any form, however, he is far more interested in producing art than talking about it. Otis’ mother vividly remembered when her son returned from his first day of kindergarten and announced that he was going to be an artist. Otis said she thought it was very cute at the time, but, when he had not changed his mind as a teenager, she worried that Otis would have a hard time making a living.
The artists Otis Huband standing in front of one of his paintings.
Otis Huband in his studio

Now at 87 years of age, he has still not changed his mind, nor has he lost his Virginia accent despite spending most of his life in Texas. Otis confirms his decision, To this day, I have never pursued any other course in my life. Nor was I ever tempted to do so. Nothing to me was ever as interesting or nebulous as art.

 

This image shows the entire painting whose detail was used as the main image.
Gilbert’s Garden, c.1960, o/c, 56 x 40 in.
EDUCATION & EDUCATOR:

Otis transferred from the California College of Arts & Crafts, located in Oakland, to the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond in 1958 to finish his requirements for a BFA. During this time, he became proficient in all the traditional fine arts media. He loved being a student and said of the experience, I know that I learned more from my fellow students than from our well-intentioned and likable instructors. I would say that being in an environment five days a week with a congenial and, for the most part, serious group of seekers made a profound impression on me.

This is an image of an Otis Huband collage painting where newspapers were used showing the day before stock market closings.
A Closure, c.1989, 1989, mixed-media, 49 x 40 in.

In 1961, Otis received his MFA, also from Virginia Commonwealth University, and shortly thereafter traveled with his new bride, Anne, to Italy where he studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti, Perugia for a year. When funds ran low, they returned to the US, settling in Houston, Texas, where Anne was offered a job teaching math. In 1967, Otis became an Art Instructor at the Houston Museum School of Fine Arts (now Glassell School). He left the Museum School in 1971 determined to focus on his own work.

During the 70’s I wanted to find a unique voice uninfluenced by current styles or fashions. Something based on universal aesthetic principals that apply to all painting, both ancient and contemporary. 

Otis retired from teaching in 1982 after working as an art instructor at the Art League of Houston for 11 years.

A painting of an abstracted figure in a landscape filled with foliage.
Soft Rapollo 2, 2000, o/c, 52 x 37 in.

Six years before Otis retired from teaching, he had become so frustrated with the commercial side of the art world, he stopped making any effort to show his work in art galleries. Instead, he opted to focus on painting and sold his work privately.

During this period, he was invited to have solo shows in non-commercial settings in Houston such as the University of Houston and the Health Science Center in 1985, the Goethe Institute in 1889, and the Museum of Printing History in 1993. He did not show his work again in a commercial gallery until art dealer and collector William Reaves offered him a retrospective at his new Houston gallery in 2010 when Otis was in his late 70’s. Valley House Gallery in Dallas began representing Otis in 2014 and produced a monograph on his work in 2019.

A still life in which the artist used the device of an oval composition in a rectangle.
Weeping Woman with Smoking Leg, c.1970, o/c, 40 x 56 in.
STUDIO PRACTICE:

Otis’ studio practice begins each morning by creating a series of small collages, before he starts to paint. The act of assembling the collages allows him to …make the transition from cognitive thinking to perceptual impulses, in other words, to bypass thinking in favor of impulsive feeling. The collages that result, made from any two- dimensional material that has been touched or altered by human interaction, are not studies for paintings. Otis states the collages, establish an emotional relationship to the materiality of being, seeing, and feeling, and they adjust his mindset for approaching the canvas that awaits him.

A patterned tangle of figures and decorative fabrics.
Interior with Figures, 1996, o/c, 48 x 36 in.

Although his early work was painted with brushes, his later works are composed primarily with oil stick. He loves the freedom oil stick provides as it allows continuous lines to be created without having to interrupt an inspired passage by reloading a brush.

This recent painting shows Huband's use of oil stick to create his current signature style of flat two dimensional areas of patterned space.
Mystical Circus, 2017, o/c 70 x 40 in.

For Otis, the hardest thing is placing the first mark on a pure white canvas. Once that first gestural line or shape is established, sometimes without even looking at the canvas as it is applied, he can then explore all the possibilities it suggests. As the painting evolves, each mark informs the next, figures, or parts of figures often emerge to become elements of an abstracted whole.

For me, painting is like an archaeological excavation.  Unexpected treasures are sometimes found, truths revealed, and aesthetic vistas open up exciting possibilities.  Banalities disappear.  One almost becomes a conduit for aesthetic states which are not always under the complete control of the artist.  That is the mystery and the fascination of art.  It is mystical!

This is an example of Huband's more three dimensional representational style..
Variation of Three, 1974, o/c, 50 x 40 in.

In Otis’ earlier work, the figure would often be the subject, rendered in a representational three-dimensional style, whereas the abstracted figuration that emerges in his later work is distinguished by two-dimensional shapes and patterns that play off the other elements in his paintings.

My paintings are flat and not illusionistic. An honest celebration of a flat surface which is characteristic of most modern art which celebrates paint itself and the flat surface to which it adheres.

A red still life of indeterminate objects.
Refusing Not to Say No, 1982, o/c, 50 x 50 in.
THEN & NOW:

In 2021, Otis will have been a professional artist for 60 years. During his career, he has participated in over 60 group, and 30 one-person exhibitions. In addition to showing in galleries across the country, Otis has had one-person exhibitions at the Lynchburg Fine Arts Center in Virginia, the Oak Ridge Art Center in Tennessee, Wisconsin State College, the University of Houston, and Palazzo Ferretti in Cortona, Italy

Another example of his collage paintings using paper bags, news paper and other found two dimensional objects.
Contact The 1st of 5 Poems, c.1989, mixed-media on canvas, 40 x 36 in.

When asked what makes a painting successful, he replied, The major requirement of a successful painting to me is that it be saturated with the vulnerabilities and frailties of humanity. The exact opposite of “cool” indifference. I want my fingerprints all over it. It is my testimony to passing through this world in this time and being involved with it in a deeply personal way.

I wanted to return to the pure art impulse that I experienced as a child in kindergarten. The honest independence of a child! I still work towards this goal.

*****

See all Otis Huband works currently available on FAE.

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Dallas Painter William Elliott (1909-2001)

FAE is pleased to offer works from the estate of William Elliott, one of Dallas’ most respected watercolor artists.

William Elliott was born April 4, 1909 in Sedalia, Missouri. After his family moved to Dallas, in 1928 he graduated from Dallas’ Sunset High School, and then enrolled at John Tarleton College in Stephenville, Texas where he received a degree in architecture. Upon returning home, in 1931, he enrolled in Olin Travis’ Art Institute of Dallas. He had no money for tuition so, like Everett Spruce before him, he cleaned the classrooms at the end of each day in exchange for lessons. He took classes for three years at Travis’ Art Institute cultivating friendships with other Dallas artists which he maintained throughout his career.

Artist: William Elliott, Self Portrait, 1940
Self Portrait, 1940

After Leaving the Institute, he took on his first full time job as a commercial artist, creating artwork for the Interstate Theater chain. He was provided a studio by Interstate in the Melba Theater Building. When he was not working on a project for Interstate, he would look out his window for passersby that he might be able to do convince to sit for him. He learned this technique for finding inexpensive sitters while at the Art Institute. While in the depths of the depression, most people were willing to sit for whatever Elliott was able to pay.

Artist: William Elliott, "Elections" (Dallas) watercolor on paper
“Elections” (Dallas) watercolor on paper

During this time, Elliott frequently worked in the field alongside his friends Reid Crowell, William Lester, Reveau Bassett, and Otis Dozier. They sketched and painted at locations throughout Dallas, and the surrounding rural areas together. Although he was friends with many of the Dallas Regionalist artists, he was not considered a Regionalist by the group because he made his living as a commercial artist. Amusingly, over the next 10 years, he exhibited his work alongside theirs during the Texas State Fair in Dallas’ competitive Allied Arts Exhibitions held in the Dallas Museum of Fine Art, and at the Carnegie Library in Fort Worth.

Artist: William Elliott, "Hunter and His Prey" watercolor on paper
“Hunter and His Prey” watercolor on paper

During World War II, Elliott served as a staff artist with the U. S. Army Air Corps. Elliott returned to Dallas after the war and opened his own studio. He built a successful business serving the advertising and commercial artwork needs of numerous corporate clients.

Artist: William Elliott, "Dusk" watercolor on paper
“Dusk” watercolor on paper

Because he had been so successful as a commercial artist, in the mid-1960’s he retired so he could devote himself full time to his first love – watercolor. To further his skill set, he went to the Art Students League in NYC to study with Robert Angelock and to Woodstock to study with Stefan Lokos.

Artist: William Elliott, "Snow Covered Cedars" watercolor on paper
“Snow Covered Cedars” watercolor on paper

Over the next 30 years, he became one of Dallas’ best known and most accomplished watercolor artists. His paintings draw on observations from trips through Spain, Portugal, Colorado, Maine, and along the Texas Gulf Coast. He was a long-term member of the Southwestern Watercolor Society, and during his career, exhibited in over 100 juried art exhibitions, winning over forty awards. His works can be found in the collections of Diamond Shamrock Corporation, Southwestern Bell Telephone, John Deere Corporation, and numerous other corporate and private collections.

Artist: William Elliott, "Autumn Splendor" watercolor on paper
“Autumn Splendor” watercolor on paper

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For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Madeleine at mbogan@fineartestates.com.

Three Important Early Paintings by Valton Tyler

In 1969, at the age of 25, the exceptionally talented Visionary painter Valton Ray Tyler painted these three extraordinary and extremely rare to market oil paintings that are now available on FAE.  At the time, although his living conditions had stabilized, he was suffering radical mood swings caused by his life-long fight with Manic Depression, or what is now known as Bipolar Disorder.  All three are different in temperament and foreshadow the direction his work would take over the next 48 years.

Image of early Painting by Valton Ray Tyler (1944-2017), Untitled (Crucifixion) 1969, oil on canvas, 40 x 48 Inches
Valton Ray Tyler (1944-2017), Untitled (Crucifixion) 1969, oil on canvas, 40 x 48 Inches
Image of Painting by Valton Ray Tyler (1944-2017), Untitled 1969 oil on canvas, 27 3/4 x 27 3/4 inches
Valton Ray Tyler (1944-2017), Untitled 1969 oil on canvas, 27 3/4 x 27 3/4 inches
Image of early painting by Valton Ray Tyler (1944-2017), Untitled 1970, oil on canvas, 20 x 24 inches
Valton Ray Tyler (1944-2017), Untitled 1970, oil on canvas, 20 x 24 inches

In the beginning of 1970, Valton’s life would take a radical swing towards the Manic.  His brother was desperate to try to help Valton find his way and to determine if he really had talent, or if his artwork was just self-devised therapy.  He brought Valton and a portfolio of his drawings to Dallas art dealer, Donald Vogel.  Vogel was impressed enough with Valton’s talent and creativity that he arranged for Valton to use the printmaking department at Southern Methodist University under the watchful eye of Larry Schoelder, who ran the department.  To help keep Valton supplied, Vogel agreed to purchase all of Valton’s plates and paper as long as he wanted to produce prints.  Valton became sort of an artist in residence without portfolio at SMU and worked when classes were not in session, often well into the  night.  During this intense period of productivity, by October of 1971, Valton had started editions on over 50 different intaglio prints.

Image of Valton Tylers etching titled "First Etched Stage"
First Etched Stage, line etching

Valton used themes and working methods in these three earlier paintings that he modified to use in making his black and white intaglio prints.  He used a similar cross hatching technique to give the forms he created volume and, when a figure appeared in his prints, he often elongated their limbs in a sort of hyper-Mannerist style.

Image of Valton Tyler's etching titled "Environment Man," line etching
“Environment Man,” line etching
Image of a detail of "Environment Man" showing elongated limbs as in his earlier paintings
Detail  of Environment Man showing elongated limbs as in his earlier paintings

After Valton’s intensely focused period of printmaking, he started working in oil on stretched canvas.  With these works, unlike his earlier paintings and prints where three-dimensional form was derived from crosshatched strokes,

Image of an early painting by Valton Tyler, "Decameron," oil on canvas, 48 x 70 inches
Valton Tyler, Decameron, oil on canvas, 48 x 70 inches

Valton started to render form by carefully blended smooth shading.  With practice, Valton was able to subtly render a graduated background shade that would work its way across large canvases.  He also started to place his quasi-plant and machine-like organic forms into landscape settings.

Image of the Valton Tyler Painting, "Brace," oil on canvas, 70 x 70 inches
Valton Tyler, Brace, oil on canvas, 70 x 70 inches

Before Valton passed away, he was honored with a one-person show of his prints and paintings at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas.  Below is the last large painting  Valton painted before his death.  It was donated to the Amon Carter by one of his family members and is currently hanging in a transitional stairwell.

Image of Valton Tyler's last large Painting installed in a stairwell of The Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas
Valton Tyler’s last large Painting installed in a stairwell at The Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas

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For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Madeleine at mbogan@fineartestates.com.

Yukio Fukazawa: Master Printmaker

Yukio Fukazawa was born on July 1, 1924 in Yamashina Prefecture, Japan to Hidensuke and Umeno Fukazawa.  Hidensuke was employed by the Japanese government and shortly after Yukio’s birth was reassigned to a post in Korea where he moved his family.  Yukio entered Seishu Grammar School from which he graduated in 1937.  While in school he met another student named Hiroo Nakahara and they became best friends.  After graduation, at age 15, Hiroo went to Kyoto, Japan to study business and two years later, Yukio traveled to Tokyo, Japan to attend the Tokyo Fine Arts School.  With these moves and their intense involvement with their new schools and eventual careers, they had no communication between them for the next 26 years.

Seishu Grammar School, Korea
Graduating Class of 1937, Seishu Grammar School, Hiroo Nakahara is in the second row, third from left and Yukio Fukazawa is in the third row at far right.

Although Yukio started out to be a painter, in the mid-40’s he damaged his knee.   Because he was not able to stand at the easel for long periods of time to paint, he chose to focus on Intaglio printmaking where he could work sitting down.  While he was still attending school, in 1947, he married Kakkiko Kojima.  He graduated in 1949.

From 1949 to 1962, Yukio became one of Japan’s most revered print makers and teachers exhibiting in numerous print shows throughout Japan and winning many awards.  In the early 60’s, he reached out to the mother of his Grammar school friend Hiroo Nakahara in hopes of reconnecting.  He discovered that Hiroo had become a successful businessman in Dallas, Texas working for the Japan Cotton Company that bought cotton in the US and Mexico and exported it to Japan.  They started corresponding and when Hiroo found out in 1963 that his old friend had been invited by the Mexican International Cultural Association to come to Mexico City to teach copper plate printing techniques, where his company maintained an office, he arranged to meet with him there.  They again became good friends.

An Intaglio print by Fukazawa showing his exceptional skill and design as a print maker.

When his teaching stint in Mexico ended, Yukio then traveled to New York City.   With Hiroo’s financial help, he was able to continue his journey on to Paris to continue his own study.  He returned to Japan at the end of 1963.

Once back in Japan, he became a part time instructor at Fukuoka Gakgei University.  Through the 1970’s, he became a board member of the Japan Print Artists’ Association; returned to visit Mexico and traveled to Guatemala; was a juror for the Japan Modern Arts Exhibition; became a part time instructor at the TAMA Fine Arts School; and then chairman of the board of the Print Arts Association.

In 1986, Yukio took a position as a full-time professor at the TAMA Fine Arts School.  He was so busy teaching, lecturing, and exploring other fine art mediums like etching glass, clay, and acrylic painting, he did not have time to print his intaglio prints.  He asked his daughter, Akiko, who had an art degree from the same art school in Tokyo he had attended, to help him edition his prints.  She became his printer and worked closely with her father to maintain the exceptional quality printing that had become a hallmark of his work.

A number of exhibition catalogs from exhibitions of Yukio Fukazawa’s prints.

From the late 1960’s through the late 1970’s Yukio exhibited his work all over the world.  His prints were exhibited in New York, Vancouver, Cincinnati, Napoli, Rome, Firenze, Stockholm, Brussels, Boston, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Australia,  Venezuela and in many museums and university galleries in Japan.

Retired businessman and good friend of Yukio’s, Hiroo Nakahara

Since 1963, He continued his friendship with his old friend Hiroo.  To pay him back for the money Hiroo had loaned him over the years, he would send him a print from a current edition when he was especially proud of it.  Over time, Hiroo ended up with over 30 prints of Yukio’s in his collection.  He gave a number of them to the art department at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and turned the rest over to FAE to place.

A letter dated October 19,1994 from Yukio to Hiroo letting his good friend know that the Ichihara Lakeside Museum will have a permanent exhibition space for his work.

In 1991, a retrospective of 200 works by the Fukazawa was held at the Yamanichi Prefectural Museum.   To cap an amazing career, in 1994, the Ichihara Lakeside Museum was gifted over 450 works by Fukazawa.  The museum dedicated a permanent room to his work where exhibitions rotate 4 times a year.

The Ichihara Lakeside Museum was gifted over 450 works by Fukazawa.

Hiroo remembers his old friend and speaks fondly of the friendship that was rekindled after so many years.  He is happy to have helped his friend out saying, “When you loan money to a friend, it is best not to have any expectation to be repaid.  In this case however, Yukio repaid me in many ways.”

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Sign up with FAE to receive our newsletter, and never miss a new blog post or update! 

Browse fine artworks available to purchase on FAE here.  Follow us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter to stay updated about FAE and new blog posts.

Visit FAE’s Collections Blog here to learn more about artworks available on FAE. 

For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Madeleine at mbogan@fineartestates.com.

Lee Estate Gifts to Amon Carter Museum

On behalf of the heir to the Marjorie Johnson Lee estate, one of the dealers who is working with FAE recently facilitated the gift of seven works on paper from the Lee Estate to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas.  Six works were by Lee herself and the other was a work from Lee’s collection by the Austin artist Kelly Fearing.  Spencer Wigmore, Assistant Curator at the Amon Carter Museum said of the gift:  We’re quite happy with the selection, which should give us some flexibility to acknowledge her various contributions when we show works by Fort Worth School artists in the galleries…. 

2019.12, Circus Interior #1, Oct. 1979, Opaque and transparent watercolor, pastel, ink with paper collage pieces. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Gift of Marjorie Johnson Lee Estate.

During the earliest conceptual discussions of FAE’s long term goals, the idea of using the platform to facilitate the gifting of artwork to museums and other public institutions seemed practical and mutually beneficial.  There are many cases were an institution, because of budget issues and priorities, would not necessarily purchase an artwork from an artist they considered worthy of adding to their collection, but would be very happy to add a representative example if it was gifted.

2019.16, Untitled [Still Life], ca. 1950, watercolor and ink on paper, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Gift of Marjorie Johnson Lee Estate.
Since many of the artworks offered on FAE come from artists or their heirs who are thinking about issues of legacy or making sure that the artworks in their care are well placed, FAE and the dealers who participate have an opportunity to help facilitate their wishes.

2019.11, Untitled [Surrealist Figure], ca. 1942, lithograph, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Gift of Marjorie Johnson Lee Estate.
Although there are several other estates that have shown interest, this is the first gift of artworks to a museum that came about because of FAE and an associated dealer’s direct involvement with an artist’s estate.   We are hopeful that this act of generosity will inspire even more artists, or their heirs, to consider making works available for gifting.  As interest in this informal gifting program expands, FAE and the dealers we work with will be reaching out to let institutions know what is being offered.

2019.13, Circus Interior #2, Oct. 1979, Opaque and transparent watercolor, pastel, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Gift of Marjorie Johnson Lee Estate.

If you would like more information on Marjorie Johnson Lee and her work, there is a blog post listed on the postings menu at left and a link to currently available works by her here.

2019.14, Untitled [Harlequin figure], ca. 1948, etching and aquatint, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Gift of Marjorie Johnson Lee Estate.

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Browse fine artworks available to purchase on FAE here.  Follow us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter to stay updated about FAE and new blog posts.

Visit FAE’s Collections Blog here to learn more about artworks available on FAE. 

For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Madeleine at mbogan@fineartestates.com

 

Early Career Paintings by Jim Stoker

THE ETERNAL NATURALIST

Valley House Gallery is pleased to offer a selection of early works by San Antonio artist, Jim Stoker.   

Jim Stoker was born in 1935 in Nash, Texas, and reared in Atlanta, a rural town in East Texas. He received a BFA in Applied Art from The University of Texas at Austin in 1957, and an MA in painting, drawing, and printmaking from New Mexico Highlands University in 1962 where he studied with Elmer Schooley. Stoker painted throughout a teaching career which culminated in a 30-year tenure at Trinity University in San Antonio. 

Jim Stoker, American, Born 1935
Jim Stoker, American, Born 1935

Most of the Stoker works we are offering range from the early 1970’s to the early 1980’s, when he was teaching at Trinity University in San Antonio. Stylistically, in the early 70’s Stoker’s oil paintings tended towards representational landscapes with figures at work. His compositions often incorporated incongruous animals milling around the workers or the tools they used.

The Hi-Ranger Rides Again, 1970
The Hi-Ranger Rides Again, 1970

In the mid-70’s the subjects and style of his work changed to flat colorful interiors, resembling paper cut out collages more than paintings.

Woman with Checkered Wall, 1975
Woman with Checkered Wall, 1975

In the late 70’s and early 80’s, he and his wife would spend the Summers in Santa Fe, NM where he painted a series of paintings focusing on the architecture and its relationship to the natural occurring and the planted flora.

House in Santa Fe, 1979
House in Santa Fe, 1979

He later said of that time, you used to see Hollyhocks everywhere in Santa Fe in the late 80’s.  You would think it was the state flower there were so many.  Now, you hardly see any when traveling around that area.

His work became more representational in style and focused more on nature and the environment. 

Jim and his wife Elouise are both naturalists who helped form the San Antonio, Texas chapter of the Sierra Club. Stoker’s efforts to protect the natural fauna and flora around San Antonio led to a series of paintings he titled No Place to Live:… The theme of this series pointed to the animals’ plight when humans are taking over their natural living spaces. 

Brown Trout, 2000/1, oil on canvas, 30 x 42 inches

Jim’s current paintings primarily focus on the riparian zone of the Guadalupe river near a cabin that has been in his wife’s family for generations.  He has created a unique technique he calls Confetti Splatter that he uses to create a multicolored dot matrix as an underpainting  for his naturalistic landscape compositions. 

Visit FAE’S Artist Info page about Jim Stoker here. On FineArtEstates.com you can browse available artworks and read more about this Texas Artist.

Browse fine artworks available to purchase on FAE here.  Follow us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter to stay updated about FAE and new blog posts.

Visit FAE’s Collections Blog here to learn more about artworks available on FAE. 

Drawings from the Estate of Everett Franklin Spruce

TEXAS’ MOST CELEBRATED MODERNIST

FAE is excited to have a selection of drawings available from the estate of Texas’ most celebrated mid-century modernist painter, Everett Franklin Spruce, consigned from one of his four children, Henry Spruce.  Spurce is primarily known for his contributions to the formation of a unique Regional moment that started in Dallas, Texas in 1932.

Unlike the Regionalist movement that began in the upper Midwest and focused on the bucolic rural farmlands and farm life that embodied that region,  the Texas version took a different approach, focusing on the effects of improper land management that ultimately caused the dust bowl.   It was also a broadly based movement that was taken up by many Texas novelists, playwrights, choreographers, and most all other artistic disciplines.

Early image of Everett Spruce at an exhibition of his work
Everett Franklin Spruce (1908-2002)

Everett Franklin Spruce was born in Holland, Arkansas on December 25, 1907.  When Spruce was 4 years old his father moved the family to Adams Mountain in Pope County and then later to Mulberry, Arkansas, where Spruce attended high school.  Spruce showed artistic talent during these early years, primarily in the drawings he did of the Arkansas landscape.  His abilities were called to the attention of noted Dallas painters Olin and Katherine Travis.  The Travises had established the Dallas Art Institute in Dallas and had summer painting camps in Arkansas’ Ozark mountains.  Hearing about this young prodigy and recognizing a burgeoning talent, they offered him a scholarship at the Dallas Art Institute.  Spruce moved to Dallas and studied at the DAI from 1926 – 1929 with Travis and another Texas artist, Thomas M. Stell, Jr.  In 1934 Spruce married Alice Virginia Kramer, a young woman who was also taking classes at the art institute.

In 1931 Spruce took a position as gallery assistant at the Free Public Art Gallery, renamed the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in 1933, and was promoted to registrar in 1936 when the museum opened its doors at its new location in Fair Park as part of the Texas Centennial Celebration.

Image of Spruce ink drawing of a plant structure.
Everett Spruce “Cypress,” Pen & Ink on Paper, 17 1/4 x 17 1/4 inches (paper size).

In the early 1930’s, Spruce became one of Texas’s premier Regionalist artists.   He quickly developed a national reputation.  He was invited to show his paintings in exhibitions across the nation including the Kansas City Art Institute (Kansas City, Missouri); the Rockefeller Center (New York, New York); the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, New York); the Palace of Fine Arts (San Francisco, California); and the New York World’s Fair Exhibition (New York, New York).

In 1940 Spruce, with only a high school education, joined the art faculty at the University of Texas at Austin where he began as an instructor in life drawing and creative design.  From 1949 – 1951 Spruce served as Chairman of the Department of Art, and in 1954 he was promoted to the position of Professor of Art.  In 1958 Spruce was the first artist featured in the Blaffer Series on Texas Art, published by the University of Texas Press. The portfolio, titled A Portfolio of Eight Paintings, includes the essay “Everett Spruce: An Appreciation” by Jerry Bywaters, then director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts.  Spruce was also honored by the American Federation of the Arts’ offer to sponsor a traveling exhibition of his paintings in many venues throughout the Midwest and Southeast, starting at the McNay Museum in San Antonio.

Image of a mixed media Spruce work on paper of plant forms.
Everett Spruce, Untitled (Plants), mixed media on paper, 17 1/2 x 19 inches

In 1974 Spruce retired from the Art Department as Professor Emeritus, yet continued to paint until he was 88 years old.  Spruce died in Austin in 2002 at the age of 94, survived by his twin daughters and two sons.   Spruce’s paintings were collected by many of America’s major museums including the Metropolitan Museum in New York; Dallas Museum of Art; M.H. DeYoung Museum in San Francisco; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Phillips Gallery, Washington D.C.; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, to name a few. 

Spruce’s drawings were rarely used as studies for paintings.  The vastness and majesty evoked in his paintings serve as a counterpoint to the drawings’ tighter, more detail-oriented focus.  He drew inspiration and subject matter for his expressionist landscapes from numerous weekend outings with his family into West Texas, and South to the Texas Gulf Coast.  He would pull over to the side of the road whenever something in the landscape caught his attention and, to his family’s distress, memorize every aspect of the scene for 15 minutes or longer.  From these memories of place, he would create paintings or drawings of these inspiration points in his studio, often months later.  He did not work from photographs or sketchbook, letting his memory serve as reference.   

image of a pen and ink drawing on paper of a man out hunting.
Everett Spruce, “The Gunner” Pen & Ink on paper, 12 x 9 1/2 inches

Spruce’s drawing style became freer as his career evolved, producing increasingly abstract and expressionist works.  Even Spruce’s latest drawings show an assuredness of hand and a confidence of purpose.  His evocative depictions of Texas landscape have cemented his Lone Star Regionalist status, and stand as a testament to his love of the land.   

From May 30, 2020 through September 20th, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art will honor Everett  Spruce with his first major retrospective.  The exhibition will travel to the San Antonio Museum of Art and open on October 10th and close on January 3, 2021.

There will be a comprehensive fully illustrated catalog co-published by Texas A&M Press and the Amon Carter.  The primary essay will be authored by the exhibition curator, Shirley Reece-Hughes.

*****

Valley Visit FineArtEstates.com today to browse these artworks and more; available to Buy Now or place a Reserve at your preferred price level.

 

Part II of The Photographic Archives Collection

Part II – Our Introduction to the Photographs of John Albok (1894-1982)

Our first introduction to the photography of John Albok was a life changing experience. It was an unforgettable day twenty-six years ago. A well-dressed woman walked into our gallery on Lovers Lane in Dallas with an acid-free box full of black and white photographs. She gave us the impression of a woman from another era, and definitely not a Texan.

That box contained thirty or forty Depression era 8×10 photographs, a mixture of Central Park scenes, children playing in the streets, storefronts and immigrant street vendors, political themes and more, all dating to the 1930’s and ‘40’s in New York, and all in excellent vintage condition. They were historical gems. I immediately recognized museum quality work.

And that woman was John Albok’s sixty-five-year-old daughter, Ilona Albok Vitarius, who was in fact not a Texas native, but rather a transplant from New York City. Our photography gallery had been open for five years at that time and Ilona was looking for a local venue to exhibit her father’s work. Our reputation for photographic preservation and historical photography must have piqued her curiosity to pay us a visit.

Beckie and I immediately fell in love with the work and the opportunity to introduce Dallas to John Albok. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship and working relationship for the next twenty years until Ilona’s death in 2013. Her passion for her father’s work and the desire to share his life and art with others never waned.

John Albok Merchant Tailor, 1938. 1391 Madison Avenue, NYC.

Ilona had so many stories to tell about her father. John Albok was a Hungarian immigrant who, in 1923, established himself on upper Madison Avenue as a master tailor. But his true passion and avocation was photographing his newly adopted city. Beckie remembers the countless evenings we spent in Ilona’s living room drinking Chambord or Tokaji and discussing her father’s photographs. She was extremely knowledgeable about the backstory of every image and she was very literate in photography. Every visit was different. She would surprise us with a new selection of prints that she wanted us to see. It ran the gamut from pictorial, soft focus work reminiscent of Alfred Steiglitz to gritty documentary scenes on the order of Farm Security Administration photography, and studio portraiture that her father turned to when the Depression struck.

Self-Portrait of Albok, 1938.

According to Ilona, a day in the life of John Albok would start with an early morning of greeting customers in his one-man shop, taking measurements for gentlemen’s suits and sitting behind the sewing machine. Lunch was spent hunting the streets and parks with his Rolleiflex twin lens reflex camera, then back to tailoring. At the end of the day he would draw the curtains, climb the stairs for supper with his family, then back downstairs to convert his small tailor shop into a darkroom to develop the days’ film and print photographs. Other evenings Albok would invite musicians, artists and writers to gather and discuss art and culture, and on occasion to view his latest self-made 16mm film documentaries.

The Culture Club, 1932. Musicians, artists, and writers would gather in John Albok’s tailor shop for regular screenings of his 16mm films.

Albok rotated a photography display in his storefront window, and that is how he caught the attention of Grace Mayer who curated his first one-man exhibit of photographs at the Museum of the City of New York in 1938. Gordon Hyatt, a CBS television writer and producer, also discovered John Albok in the mid-1960’s after seeing his tailor shop photo gallery. That relationship turned into an hour-long Emmy nominated documentary film entitled ‘John Albok’s New York’, which essentially exposed the world to John Albok photography. Art galleries and museums took notice and began to collect and exhibit his work.

Albok’s Store Front Gallery, 1942.
John Albok with Gordon Hyatt (left), producer and Richard Stone (right), cinematographer at the CBS studio during the production of John Albok’s New York, 1965.

Highlights of working with the Albok collection were co-curating with Ilona two major exhibits for our gallery, John Albok, An American Legacy in 1994, and For The Children in 1995. American Legacy featured sixty-five photographs and four original artworks by Albok. We enlisted Tom Southall, Curator of Photographs of the Amon Carter Museum to deliver a gallery talk after the opening. And on a subsequent evening we converted the gallery into a theater for a screening of “John Albok’s New York”.

Working with Ilona on the exhibition catalogue ‘For the Children’ was a special treat. It took months of editing and re-design because she would continually surprise me with new items that I found irresistible to include in the catalogue. Items such as hand-written diary entries, a speech he made to the New York Camera Club at Rockefeller Center in 1939, letters from museum directors and curators as well as news clips and international reviews and publications of his photography which were all invaluable in assembling his curriculum vitae.

Albok with camera outside of his shop, 1970. 1391 Madison Avenue, NYC.

Over the years, we assembled a collection of John Albok photographs representing the major themes that concerned him. Our private collection includes 100 large scale, exhibition quality photographs taken between the years 1919-1977, plus an equal number of smaller uncatalogued prints; color photographs made in Albok’s later years; the twin lens reflex camera that he used during the New York World’s Fair in 1939-40; a pair of hand-made kid skin gloves; some of his sketches and artwork; and a small clutch of original negatives gifted to us by Ilona.

Albok in the Tailor Shop, 1952.

What was even more remarkable about the first encounter with John Albok photography, and his daughter Ilona, was the fact that we lived just three blocks away from her home in north Dallas for eight years and we never knew it! What a time we would have had if the introduction was made earlier. Had we been aware of such a vast historical treasure in the neighborhood we very well may have launched our gallery years earlier than we did.

Ilona Albok Vitarius, Photographic Archives Gallery, 1995.

 

Andy Reisberg
Wimberley, TX

 

Works from The Photographic Archives Gallery Collection are available on FAE here.  Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to stay updated about FAE and new blog posts.

Learn more about FAE’s Collections Blog here, and visit FAE’s Design Blog here.

Marjorie Johnson Lee

AN AMERICAN MODERNIST

On May 31, 1911, Marjorie Evelin Johnson was born in Upland, Texas, a small town that no longer exists, in Upton County.  Her father, a country doctor who worked for Humble Oil, constantly moved his family around West Texas to wherever Humble oil workers needed his services.  Most likely from the stress of being in almost constant motion, Marjorie’s parents divorced in 1924 and her grandmother moved the family to Fort Worth where they lived in rental housing until 1938.  Marjorie graduated Paschal High School in 1925 and that next year, at age 15, started working for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company.  That same year, pursuing her childhood interest in drawing, Marjorie started studying art with Fort Worth artist, Mrs. G.W. Greathouse.

Image of Marjorie Johnson Lee at the Art Students League
Marjorie at the Art Students League
Marjorie E. (Johnson) Lee (1911-1997)

In 1934, while still working with the phone company, Marjorie decided to attended Texas Christian University.  After taking classes at TCU for two years, she dropped out when Blanche McVeigh, a respected artist and printmaker who was a principal of the Fort Worth School of Fine Arts along with Evaline Sellors and Wade Jolly, was impressed enough with her artistic talent to invite her to enroll in their school.  Under Jolly’s tutelage, she became a skilled landscape watercolorist.  In the late 30’s and early 40’s she exhibited often with other prominent Fort Worth artists like Bror Utter and Veronica Helfensteller.  As with many serious artists in the Dallas and Fort area during that time, she traveled to Colorado Springs to take classes at the Colorado Art Center in 1942.

In the latter part of 42, to do her part, Marjorie joined the WAVES and was sent to Norman Oklahoma for training in radio communication and celestial navigation.  In 1943, she was assigned to Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida for the next three years where she taught young airmen these skills and painted and drew whenever she had time off.

Image of an abstracted floral still life
Flowers, 1971 Oil on Canvas 24 x 20 inches

After WWII, she moved to New York City to attend the Art Students League under the GI Bill.  In 1947, to be sure she could stay in the city, she took a job with New York Telephone and continued to take classes at the League through 48.

She vacationed on Martha’s Vineyard in 1950 and chose to capture her impressions of the island in pastel.  She returned in 52, and this time chose watercolor, possibly more suited to the Island atmosphere.

She continued the artistic life in NYC and in 1950, met and married an experimental film maker and educator named Francis Lee.  Marjorie’s artwork documents their vacations and trips out of NYC over the next 14 years with works from Minnewaska, New Rochelle, Carmel, East Hampton, and Woodstock in NY, Colorado, Glacier Park in Montana, and New Jersey.

Image of an abstracted edge of a river with rocks
Rocky Crossing, 1978 Oil on Canvas 18 x 24 inches

After working for the phone company in NYC for 27 years, in 1974, she moved back to Fort Worth introducing her husband to life in Texas.  Although while living in New York, she continued to show in important Texas and regional shows, retirement provided the opportunity to focus on her art.  She started exhibiting with the Evelyn Siegel Gallery in Fort Worth and entering competitive shows all over Texas.  Nine years after their move, Marjorie and Francis divorced and he moved back to NYC.

About the time Marjorie entered the Art Students League in NYC, she fell in love with color and was won over by Modernist art.  During her vacations she filled drawing books with plein-air, almost fauve like, pastels and watercolors of ebullient trees, fast flowing rivers, and assemblages of hyper-colored rocks.  Upon her return to the city, her favorite pastels and watercolors would often evolve into studies for oil paintings.

image of an abstracted still life
Untitled (Still Life) Pastel and Cut Paper Collage on Paper 20 x 26 inches

After she returned to live in Fort Worth, she started creating brightly colored collages, cut from home-made and commercial colored papers, repurposed watercolors, and often combined with watercolor washes, ink, and sometimes pastel.  They were always bright in color and evolved over time from representational to totally non-objective.

Image of an non representational collage
Swim Through the Sea of Light, Little Swimmer, 1979 Cut Paper Collage on Paper 20 x 14 inches

Marjorie gave up entering competitive shows in 1984 and her last one-person show was held at Evelyn Siegal Gallery in 1994.  She died in a Fort Worth nursing home on February 1, 1997.

*****

Visit FineArtEstates.com today to browse these artworks and more; available to Buy Now or place a Reserve at your preferred price level.

The Photographic Archives Collection

Part I in the Photographic Archives Blog Series:

FAE is now representing the photography collection of Andy and Beckie Reisberg, whose Photographic Archives Gallery was a fixture in Dallas, Texas from its opening in 1989 through 2006.  In their time as art dealers, Andy and Beckie befriended many of the artists they exhibited and promoted, often acquiring hundreds of an artist’s photographs for their personal collection.

The Reisbergs graciously granted an interview with us to discuss their memories of these artists, who are the focus of this blog series.  In this first installment of four, the Reisbergs share with us their background as art dealers and gallery owners.  The following three posts will focus on the friendships they had with the photographers John Albok, Myron Wood, and Andy Hanson.

Left: John Albok (1894-1982) Right: Untitled

The Darkroom

Before they were art dealers the Reisbergs spent most of their time in their darkroom on Lovers Lane in North Dallas, building a specialty photographic negative printing and print restoration service.  As the quality of their work became known and their reputation grew, they established ongoing relationships with Southern Methodist University, The University of Texas at Arlington, The Dallas Historical Society, and the Dallas Public Library.

“We were darkroom subcontractors for the main library for over 25 years.  At that same time the DeGolyer Library was fulfilling orders from the public, from their permanent collection,” Andy explains.  “I would be the one to make a copy negative of a historical print, or printing from the historical negative.  That was a wonderful relationship for about 20 years.”  When the Reisbergs decided to expand their location to open an exhibition space, their ties with these institutions provided a vast resource to draw from.

The Gallery

The Reisbergs decided to begin hosting exhibits in 1989, “for the sheer joy of photography.  Our livelihood was still in the restoration and conservation of photographs, but the gallery became a gathering place for photographers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, in particular, photography classes from high school to college level.”  In an effort to share their excitement about everything photographic, the Reisbergs “hosted many group shows for area educators and their classes.  Our calling card for the gallery read, ‘Specializing in Regional and Historical Photograph Collections.’”

“In 1991 we occupied the remainder of our 3,000 square foot building and formalized the gallery.  From 1991 to 2006 it was a regular feature in Dallas: The Photographic Archives Gallery.  I curated over 200 shows and brought together photographers, focusing on the Southwest from Texas, New Mexico and Colorado.”

Left: “Patio In Sunlight, Abiquiu, New Mexico,” 1980 Right: Myron Wood (1921-1999)

When asked about any particularly memorable exhibitions, Andy’s first thought was an exhibition he co-curated with a friend on contemporary pinhole photography they called Gleaning Light.  He recalls, “We organized a group show, with a call for entries around the country and the world.  We had artists from Mexico and Canada participate.  It turned out to be over 100 photographs from nearly 75 photographers.  This was the first time I’d been involved in organizing such a show.  It took about a year to put that show together.”

The Reisbergs coordinated gallery talks and workshops, as well as hosting travelling shows by the Texas Photographic Society.  They often produced catalogues to accompany their exhibitions, some of which are included on FAE’s artist pages, such as Andy Hanson: Another Side and John Albok’s For the Children.

Left: Andy Hanson (1932-2008) Right: “Cab Calloway,” 1978

Works from The Photographic Archives Gallery Collection are available on FAE here.  Check back for our next blog post in the series, about the Hungarian-American photographer John Albok.  Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to stay updated about FAE and new blog posts.

Learn more about FAE’s Collections Blog here, and FAE’s Artists’ Estates Blog here.