Tag Archives: Texas Artist

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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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.

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