Heritage, 2011, Volume 1 Page: 14
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in 1922 at the age of 40. In Houston, Robert Preusser,
a student of Ola McNeill Davidson, emerged in the late
1930s as the state's first purely abstract painter.
Groups of younger artists in Dallas and Fort Worth
carved lasting identities around two distinctly different
philosophies of art. In the early 1930s, American Scene
painting, or Regionalism, was avidly embraced in Dallas
by a group loosely known as the Dallas Nine. The leaders
of this group, Jerry Bywaters, Otis Dozier, and Alexan-
dre Hogue, responded to Regionalism's goal of project-
ing American art onto the world stage via a powerful and
nationalistic point of view. The incorporation into art of
clearly American subject matter and social themes was
seen as the best way to create this new pro-American art
form, and artists were expected to take their inspiration
from the places in which they lived. With this philosoph-
ical underpinning, the Dallas Nine created a new school
of Texas painting, one that examined the fragility of the
north Texas landscape, the plight of rural farm families,
the diversity of the Dallas population, and the urban en-
vironment of the city.
Emerging in Fort Worth approximately ten years after
the Dallas Nine was a group known today as the Fort
Worth Circle. Led by a fun-loving Fort Worth native
named Dickson Reeder (see page 41, bottom right), and
his New York-born wife Flora, the artists of the Fort
Worth Circle were remarkably apolitical. Taking their
cues from European modernist painters, Fort Worthi-
ans Bror Utter, Bill Bomar, Kelly Fearing, and Veronica
Helfensteller, along with the Reeders and others, quickly
realized that art was bounded not by any preset rules but
only by one's imagination. This mindset did not result in
a new school of abstract painting, though Bill Bomar and
some of the others embraced it. Rather, the approach of
the Fort Worth Circle was infused with a certain aban-
donment and lightheartedness that freed the artists to
experiment with subject matter ranging from centaurs to
inscrutable women in big hats and to have little concern
about what others might say.
In the sweep of 19th and early-20th century Ameri-
can art history, early Texas artists at first survived, then
persevered, and finally thrived. Theirs is a story that ex-
actly parallels the struggles and successes of Texas itself.
Fortunately, these artists have left behind irreplaceable
personal diaries in the form of thousands of drawings,
paintings, prints, and sculptures. These artworks and the
spirit of those who made them, when added together, reveal
the poignant and enduring canvas called early Texas art. *
Art historian and curatorial advisor Scott Grant Barker, of
Fort Worth, is a member of the Center for the Advancement
and Study of Early Texas Art.
14 TEXASHERITAGE I Volume 1 2011
Blanche McVeigh, Men Working on East Lancaster, 1934. Etching. Private collection.
Wallace Simpson, The Night Guard, 1923. Lithograph. Private collection.
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2011, Volume 1, periodical, 2011; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254220/m1/14/: accessed September 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.