Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Supreme Court Historical Society

Austin College Building, Huntsville, Site of
first law school in Texas
Earlier today I spoke to the Board of Directors of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society. My topic was the founding of the first law school in Texas at Austin College. Although the college is today located in Sherman, Texas, the town of Huntsville was its home in the years prior to the Civil War. It was during that time in the 1850s that several faculty members, especially Henderson Yoakum, decided to create a law department at Austin College. Yoakum was an attorney and also served as a law partner to Sam Houston, a member of the Austin College board of trustees. Law classes began in 1855 and lasted for several years, producing a relatively small number of graduates. Royal T Wheeler served as one of the professors. Wheeler came to Texas in 1839 and began the practice of law. In 1842, he became district attorney for the Fifth Judicial District of the Republic of Texas. Two years later, he was elected to the Supreme Court of Texas. He continued as a justice on the court after statehood, evenually becoming Chief Justice. Henerson Yoakum also taught in the law school, holding some of its classes at his plantation home Sheppard's Valley, located near Huntsville. In addition to his law school duties, Yoakum also wrote one of the first histories of Texas while he was associated with Austin College. Yoakum's untimely death on November 30, 1856 eventaully brought an end ot the law department at Austin College since he was its primary motivator and adminstrator. Nonetheless, several of the early law graduates did have impressive and important careers in late nineteenth century Texas.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ty Cashion Receives an Austin College Distinguished Alumnus Award

Light Cummins and Ty Cashion
Last night, Dr. Robert "Ty" Cashion received a distinguished alumni award from Austin College. A member of the class of 1979, Dr. Cashion received the award from Dr. Marjorie Hass, Austin College President. It was my pleasure to introduce Ty at the award banquet since he was a student in one of the first classes that I taught as a young faculty member at the college. In the years since, he and I have kept in touch because of our mutual interest in history. Ty earned a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Arlington and a Ph.D. from Texas Christian University. He is a professor of history at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. An award-winning historian and author of six books, Ty was listed in Texas Monthly as one of “a new breed of scholars changing the way contemporary Texans look at their state.” In 2007, he was inducted into the prestigious Institute of Texas Letters. A member of nine learned societies, Ty has served on executive boards for the Texas State Historical Association and the Western History Association as well as associations for regional and oral history. Congratulations to Ty on becoming a distinguished alumnus of Austin College.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gallery Talk at the Dallas Museum of Art

The DMA's Lisa Kays introduces my gallery talk

With Noggin by Dorothy Austin
Today I gave a gallery talk at the Dallas Museum of Art that focused on the current exhibition of Texas sculpture that is composed of work from their permanent collection. The exhibit features important works by Allie V. Tennant, Dorothy Austin, Evaline Sellors, Michael G. Owen Jr., Bess Bigham Hubbard, Ishmael Soto, David Bates, and Jim Love. The pieces in this show spanned from 1933 to 1996, covering several periods of artistic expression. My talk, however, did not concentrate on the artistic history of these sculptors. Instead, I set this exhibit within the larger context of Texas regional history as part of the larger viewpoint in Texas uniqueness. In so doing, I surveyed the development of Texas sculpture from the the 1890s to the present, starting with Elizabet Ney and Pompeo Coppini. I contrasted the classical and traditional art of that era with the more modern work of Allie V. Tennant, Dorothy Austin, Michael G. Owen, Jr., and Evaline Sellors, all of whom came to artistic prominence during the regionalism period of the 1920s and 1930s. I also noted the influence of direct-carving advocates such as the artist William Zorach on the work of Texas artists prior to World War Two, as they sought to embrace relevant social themes as the underpinnings of their work. I also examined the changes that came to Texas sculpture with the rise of university art departments that provided academic training for artists. In that regard, I examined the work of Ishmael Soto and David Bates. Finally, I talked about the tremendous role that sculpture has come to play in Houston, especially with the support of the Menils, citing in the process the work of the late Jim Love.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Henry McArdle and the "Lost" San Jacinto Painting

McArdle's 1901 Battle of San Jacinto
 My wife Victoria and I had a most enjoyable time attending a first-rate scholarly symposium that was held today in Dallas on the subject of a recently discovered 1901 painting of the Battle of San Jacinto done by Henry McArdle, who was an early Texas artist known for his grand historical paintings. Heroic examples of McArdle's work include his justly famous "Dawn at the Alamo," a massive 1905 painting that currently hangs in the Texas capitol building in Austin. Historians have long known, as Dr. Sam Ratcliffe observed in his landmark book "Texas Painting to 1900," that artist McArdle, who painted a large 1895 version of the Battle of San Jancinto which is today well-known, had also done an additional canvas on the subject of the Battle of San Jacinto --- but the whereabouts of this later 1901 painting had long been unknown. Mr. John Buell, a great-great grandson of Henry McArlde, recently discovered this lost 1901 painting in the attic of a family home in West Virginia. The painting has now been brought to Texas where it will be offered at public auction in Dallas by the Heritage Auction Galleries.
(l. to r.) Atlee Phillips, James Crisp, Sam Ratcliffe, Ali James, Michael Grauer
Todays' scholarly symposium marked the occasion of this painting's rediscovery. Atlee Phillips, Director of Texas Art at Heritage Galleries, organized a stellar array of scholars and art history experts for the day's program. Ms. Phillips herself has an impressive standing in the Texas art history community. Many familiar with Lone Star Art will recognize her as the daughter of J. O. "Dutch" and Mary Frances Phillips, who for many years operated the famed Dutch Phillips Galleries in Fort Worth and Dallas. Atlee received a B.A. in Art History from Colorado College before graduate study at my alma mater, Tulane University. The panel she assembled included Dr. Sam Ratcliffe of the Bywaters Collection of Southern Methodist Univesity; Micheal Grauer, Curator of Art at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum; Ali James, Curator of the Texas State Captiol and the recent President of the Center for the Advancement and Study of Early Texas Art; and Dr. James Crisp, professor at North Carolina State University, who is one of this nation's preeminent historians of the Texas Revolution. Each of the participants set the rediscovered painting into perspective from their frame of reference.
(l. to r.) Michael Grauer, Victoria Cummins, Light Cummins
photo by Morris Matson

The following link provides a synopisis of the symposium. Click Here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Texas Regional Art Symposium

Annie Royer
Symposium Curator
Today I had the pleasure of attending the second annual Texas Regional Art Symposium. A group of scholars, artists, art collectors, and those interested in early Texas Art gathered at the Heard-Craig Hall in McKinney, Texas for the second annual symposium. This year's symposium centered on the theme of Texas women artists during the first half of the 20th century. Symposium director, Annie Royer, noted that “In small towns and urban centers, women artists had a vision for a cultured community that led them to create, educate, collect and collaborate. Important research and dedicated collecting continues to spread awareness of the artistic contribution of these women. Their story sheds light on the role gender played, and continues to play, in the arts." This event, which attracted an auditorium full of people, was sponsored by the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts. “By bringing together historians, curators, collectors, and local artists, the Heard-Craig Center offers a forum for dynamic discussion, as well as the presentation of new research on regional art in Texas,” explained Barbara Johnson, the director of the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts. Among the notables who gave papers were Claudia Kheel, "Texas Women in the Context of Southern Regional Art;" Jack Davis, "Pioneers in Modernism: The Forgotten Nine;" Victoria Cummins, "Women Artists and the Public Works of Art Project in Texas;" Judy Deaton, "In Service of Art for the People of Texas, Texas Women's Organizations;" Scott Barker, "Seeing and Believing: Women Artists in Fort Worth Before 1950;" Michael Grauer, "Loosening the Corset of The Nine: Women Artists in Dallas (1880-1945): Lynne Hubner, "Handmade Prints: The Process Behind the Image;" and Stashka Star, "Methods in Conservation." Several collectors of early Texas art, including Nancy Murchison, talked about their philosophies of collecting. It proved to be a memorable day for everyone who attended.