The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995 Page: 154
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154 Southwestern Historical Quarterly July
Following a succinct introductory essay, the book is organized chronologically,
according to the date of execution of the works discussed in each of the remain-
ing three chapters, which cover respectively the last half of the nineteenth centu-
ry and the first and second quarters of the twentieth century. Each chapter
opens with an overview essay concerning the period's architectural and histori-
cal context, followed by illustrated catalogue entries for the paintings, including
histories of the decorated structures and biographical information on the artists.
Illustrations include on-site photographs and architectural drawings, primarily
from the collection of the Winedale Institute for Historic Preservation. The
twenty-eight color illustrations near the end of the final chapter give the reader
a sense of the beauty of the works discussed. A great deal of useful material also
appears in the appendices, including a glossary of terms and an analysis of the
paintings in fourteen buildings according to pattern and color. In addition, an
extensive inventory groups dozens of decorated Texas structures, including
many not discussed in the text, according to architectural style, and incorporates
information on their artists. And in the preface, for those readers interested in
documenting interior ornamentation, Harwood explains the basic elements of
her research methods.
The author's contention that decorative painting in Texas functions as a cul-
tural prism while providing the state with an "artistic heritage" (p. 1) is bolstered
by her analysis of the influence of demography, technology, and commercial de-
velopment on architectural and aesthetic trends. Harwood's selection of works
ranges from high art to vernacular and from such well-known sites as San Anto-
nio's San Jose Mission, Jefferson's House of the Seasons, and Dallas's Hall of
State to relatively unknown residences and churches, such as McKinney's Bur-
ton-Merritt House and Lindsay's St. Peter's Catholic Church. The stunning inte-
rior of the latter building demonstrates the strong European influences on
decorative painting in Texas. Also, beginning in the i 87os, railroads brought in-
fluences from American popular culture into the state, such as magazines, sten-
cil catalogues, seed catalogues (whose illustrations inspired designs for paintings
with floral themes), and Sears building catalogues. Thus, small Texas communi-
ties have more examples of early decorative painting than do cities, since they
were bypassed by the railroads and hence did not experience urbanization and
the accompanying destruction of older buildings. In the twentieth century, how-
ever, accelerating urbanization opened new possibilities for decorative painters,
as exemplified by the work of Norwegian immigrant Eugene Gilboe on the walls
of movie theaters throughout the state.
The author does leave a few minor questions unanswered. For instance, why
does Texas have the most extant examples of decorative painting in its five-state
region? And why did more artists sign their work after 1900? Also, the inclusion
of county names in the list of sites in the table of contents would have been help-
ful, since several of the communities mentioned are quite small. But Buie Har-
wood has more than fulfilled her stated intention of producing a "reference
catalog" (p. xi); she also has given glimpses of the cultural changes in Texas dur-
ing the century covered by her study. This volume will be of great interest to
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995, periodical, 1995; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/m1/182/: accessed October 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.