Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Women and the Promotion of the Visual Arts in Texas, 1920s-1940s

Ethel Drought Obituary
Victoria Cummins and I have both been on a research sabbatical during the spring semester of 2013. We are  researching a book with the tentative title "Muses to Modern Culture: Women and the Advancement of the Visual Arts in Texas, 1920-1940." A major thesis to be advanced in this book is that women involved in the visual arts in Texas during the interwar period during the 1920s through the 1940s played a significant role in advancing the cause of Texas culture as artists, art museum curators, art critics, art educators, and club women interested in art. One of them was Ethel Tunstall Drought of San Antonio, whose obituary appears to the upper left. Our project will survey the considerable and varied activities that women's clubs and club women played in the promotion of Texas visual arts.We will examine the role that women played as art instructors, starting with the work of Vivian Anspaugh, Eva Flower, and others.  We will survey the major art critics of the period who were women, including Frances B. Fisk, Esse Forrester O’Brien, Goldie Capers Smith, Minnie Cameron, and Stella Shurtliff. Our book will also examine the activities of women in founding art museums and serving as curators, including Eleanor Onderdonk and others. Thus far this spring, we have conducted research in over two dozen Texas libraries and archives.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The E. Richardson Cherry Exhibit and Historical Research at the Metropolitan Research Center of the Houston Public Library

Victoria Cummins and I spent the week in Houston doing historical research at the Metropolitan Research Center of the Houston Public Library, located in the Julia Ideson Building downtown across from City Hall. This magnificent building, constructed in 1926, is an architectural treasure that has recently been completely renovated including a new archives wing that blends neatly into the style of the original facility.

Victoria Cummins in the new Metropolitan Research Center at the Julia Ideson Building
Randy Tibbits
Doing research in this building also gave us the opportunity to see the fine exhibit in the upstairs gallery focused on the life and work of Houston artist E. Richardson Cherry. This show contained several dozen of her works drawn across the entire scope of her career, which lasted from the late nineteenth century until the years following World War Two. This show was organized by Houstonian Randy Tibbits, a retired member of the staff of the Rice University library. Tibbits, an accomplished and well-known collector of art dealing with Houston, is an acknowledged and respected authority on the life of Cherry. He has spend a number of years researching her life, including visiting most everywhere she lived and painted. For a full discussion of E. Richardson Cherry, see her biographical entry in the New Handbook of Texas. The exhibit that Tibbits organized began on February 1 of this year and will end next week. As the flyer for this exhibition notes: "Cherry was Houston’s first modern artist. She, her students and their students (for as one commentator said “all that Mrs. Cherry does comes back to us, for when she is not creating she is imparting”) formed a core of forward-looking artists in the city decades earlier than is generally recognized. Newly available paintings and documents now make it possible to tell and illustrate the story of her amazing accomplishment."