Heritage, 2011, Volume 1 Page: 22
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A Brief Loor at ts., . ust-h . at Aon Art Scene
An Interview with Henri Gadbois and Leila McConnell
Henri Gadbois (b. 1930) and Leila McCo-
nnell (b. 1927) are veteran players in the
Houston art scene. The couple married in
1956, raised a family, and led a full life in
the Bayou City as professional artists. After
graduating from the University of Houston
and Rice University, respectively, both pur-
sued successful careers as art teachers and
professional artists, exhibiting at the Mu-
seum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) and
at the city' historic DuBose Gallery, among
other venues. Gadbois and McConnell
continue to make art, showing at William
Reaves Fine Art in Houston. This interview
with Sarah Beth Wilson conveys their ac-
count ofHouston' post-war art period that
helped shape the city into the artistic mecca
that it is today.
Sarah Beth Wilson (SBW): You both
taught at the museum school at the
MFAH beginning in the 1950s. Can
you describe your teaching experience
and the Houston art climate?
22 TEXASHERITAGE I Volume 1
Leila McConnell (LM): When I was
still a student at the museum school,
Lowell Collins was teaching along with
Robert Preusser, Francis Skinner, Ruth
Uhler, and Robert Joy. James Chillman
was director of the museum, and Ruth
Uhler was in charge of the daily activi-
ties. She asked if I would like to teach,
and I immediately responded, "No! I
can't do that!" She said, "Yes, I think
you can." So I began teaching classes
for all ages, ranging from four year olds
through adults. The adults took painting
classes, and children learned painting,
collage, and ceramics.
the room...I remember
the fresh smell of oil
paint that lingered in
Henri Gadbois (HG): I taught at the
MFAH museum school from 1952 until
1964. The upper studio was a fantastic
teaching space-it was two stories high,
with skylights and raw brick walls. Plas-
ter casts from the museum's collection
surrounded the room, which were avail-
able for students to sketch. I remember
the fresh smell of oil paint that lingered
in the gallery; it was so wonderful!
SBW: What were the main galleries in
town at this time?
HG: The first commercial fine arts gal-
lery was managed by Ben DuBose (a
prominent dealer) at the James Bute
paint store downtown; it was common
then to have galleries inside paint or art
stores and frame shops. I first showed
there in the early 1950s. Ben was a saint
to students; he would provide stretch-
ers, canvases, and paint. In 1966, Ben
Dubose left Bute's and formed DuBose
LM: I started showing with DuBose
Gallery right away; prior to this I also
showed with Polly Marsters Gallery and
SBW: What role did Houston artists
have in the local museums?
HG: The MFAH began the annual Ex-
hibitions of Work by Houston Artists
in 1925, and the Texas General Exhibi-
tions started in 1940. The Texas Gener-
als also traveled to Dallas and San Anto-
nio. These were juried exhibitions; artists
would submit multiple works at no fee,
and judges would select which works to
show. Leila and I first submitted work
to the Houston Artists show in the early
1950s. I was working at the museum and
once installed one of the Houston Artists
shows. I had a budget of $200 to hang
the entire show!
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2011, Volume 1, periodical, 2011; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254220/m1/22/: accessed July 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.