Heritage, 2011, Volume 1 Page: 36
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MORE THAN A FINE ART DECOR
By Pamela Murtha
The collections of art that are housed within the three Texas companies featured here could
be said to rival those found in many museums. They prove that a passion for collecting art and a
dedication to preserving history can go hand-in-hand to create a successful business strategy
The Torch Collection: Visions of the West
For more than 20 years Houston-based Torch Energy
Advisors Incorporated, an energy investment and develop-
ment company, has been home to the private art collection
of Founder and Chief Executive Officer J.P. Bryan. The
Torch Collection, with the theme-based title of Visions of
the West, is a cohesive blend of nearly 20,000 items, includ-
ing art, artifacts, maps, books, and documents that reflect
the history of Texas and the American West. Paintings and
lithographs include works from notable Texas artists such
as Hermann Lungkwitz, Theodore Gentilz, Frank Reaugh,
and Robert and Julian Onderdonk. A large room off the
reception area serves as a formal art gallery, but other pieces
are displayed throughout TEAI's offices and hallways. Giv-
en its size, only about a quarter of the entire collection is
exhibited, but items are rotated on a regular basis.
Bryan says that initially, the decision to display pieces
from his collection at TEAI was prompted by an ultima-
tum. When the avid collector's acquisitions began taking
up more and more space in their home, Bryan's wife Mary
Jon told him, "Either the art goes, or I go." Bryan humor-
ously admits to "having to stop and think about it," before
judiciously choosing to use his personal art to enhance the
Torch Energy offices. Laura Lee, art curator of the Torch
Collection, says that from this modest beginning-the dis-
play of a few items-has sprung what is essentially a private
museum housed within a place of business. She adds that
in the early 1990s, the efforts of Melissa Baldridge, the first
curator for Torch, helped expand the collection and its prestige.
Visions of the West is considered to be one of the largest pri-
vate collections of Texana and Western art in the world.
Above: Raymond Everett, Crossing the Pecos River, 1912, Worthington National Bank Collection. Opposite, top: Robert Jenkins Onderdonk, Market Plaza, circa 1880, Torch
Collection. Bottom: From the series Trails of the Southwest, Melvin C. Warren, The Briscoe Collection. All images provided by owners.
36 TEXASHERITAGE I Volume 1 2011
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2011, Volume 1, periodical, 2011; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254220/m1/36/: accessed April 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.