Yesterday and Today: From Julian Onderdonk to David Bates, Heritage presents Texas art for the ages
The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Saturday, July 20, 2024

Yesterday and Today: From Julian Onderdonk to David Bates, Heritage presents Texas art for the ages
G. Harvey (American, 1933-2017), The Herd Quitters, 1969. Oil on canvas. 24 x 30 inches (61.0 x 76.2 cm). Signed and dated lower right: G. Harvey 1969. Titled and inscribed on the reverse: The Herd Quitters.

DALLAS, TX.- As a state, and a state of mind, Texas has always been hard to define, and this is true of Texas-based artists as well. Texas artists from the past and present don't fit into tidy categories, nor have they wanted to. The kinds of art made in Texas — landscape, abstract, figurative, conceptual, self-taught, impressionistic — puts it in conversation with both the history of art and the current moment. The very social fabric of the Lone Star State and its deep philanthropic roots, its robust collecting culture, its acclaimed institutions and a thriving commercial market has made it a home to professional artists for more than a century, and the diversity of the work and the artists themselves are a testament to Texas' fundamental art-friendliness, its appeal as a subject, and as a place to carve out a practice.

Texas artists have claimed a special spot in the art cosmos and their names resonate well beyond the Red River: Julian Onderdonk, G. Harvey, Frank Reaugh, James Surls, David Bates... . All are collected the world over by both those who know and love Texas and by those who've never visited.

On June 17 Heritage offers significant works by the artists mentioned above and more in its Texas Art Signature® Auction. Highlights include stellar paintings by Onderdonk, Reaugh, and Harvey as well mixed-media by Bates, sculpture by Surls, and a sleeper painting by the mysterious and self-taught Valton Tyler.

"There are so many opportunities for every kind of Texas art collector budget," says Atlee Phillips, Heritage's Director of Texas Art. "If you are an Onderdonk fan waiting on some reasonably priced bluebonnets, this might be your best opportunity."

Julian Onderdonk (1882-1922) understood the profound potential gorgeousness of the Texas landscape, especially that around the Hill Country. His sister and fellow artist Eleanor once wrote, "It is impossible to look at any of Julian's paintings and not see the man who looked at nature with wide-open eyes, analyzed, studied and then created."

And Julian wrote of the region: "San Antonio offers an inexhaustible field for the artist. Nowhere else are the atmospheric effects more varied and more beautiful… . In the spring, when the wild flowers are in bloom, it is riotous: every tint, every hue, every shade is present in the most lavish profusion, and even in the dead of summer, when one would imagine that any canvas could only convey the impression of intense heat, the possibilities of the landscape are still beyond comprehension. One has only to see it properly to find that everything glows with a wonderful golden tint which is the delight and the despair of all who have ever tried to paint it."

Onderdonk created his oil-on-canvas painting Bluebonnets in 1922, the year of his untimely death, and it is one of his best. After studying with the great artist and teacher William Merritt Chase in New York, and upon his return to Texas in 1909, Onderdonk took on the state flower as one of his favorite subjects, and his works were so beloved that ubiquitous "Bluebonnet School" was born, and is still prevalent in Texas today. Bluebonnets from 1922 is a museum-quality Onderdonk — large and lush and brimming with the atmospheric shimmer that marks Onderdonk's most prized works. As the demand for Onderdonk's work grows, both inside and outside of Texas, his paintings are increasingly recognized as important pieces of American Impressionism that transcend any regional classification. Eight other fine paintings by Onderdonk are in this auction as well: bluebonnets, yes, but also fantastically moody and ethereal portraits of an autumn afternoon at the Guadalupe River, a Hill Country sunset, a cloudy sky over Texas, and the view from a hillside in Comfort, Texas.

Frank Reaugh (American, 1860-1945). Untitled.

This event is in fact packed with great Texas names, and Frank Reaugh, "the dean of Texas artists" and working a generation before Onderdonk, is no exception. There are four works by Reaugh here, including this emblematic untitled pastel on card depicting longhorns, likely at Palo Duro Canyon. Most of Reaugh's pastels are small and therefore well adapted to transport and use in open country. This allowed him to travel the vast expanses of the state easily and to work outdoors with little fuss. His pastel landscapes are considered some of the most poetic depictions of Texas ever produced. Jumping forward chronologically a bit are two paintings here by G. Harvey. With a career spanning five decades, Harvey focused on the American West and the Western expansion of the late 19th century, and was a favorite artist of American presidents. His cowboy-centered paintings have proved his most popular, and his paintings The Herd Quitters, from 1969, shows us G. Harvey at his best as he evokes the very mood of the hard, hot, everyday work of the cowboy.

David Bates (American, b. 1952). Cannas, 2000.

On the contemporary front, this event hosts some artists who've tackled making work in this state much more recently, including Terry Allen, David McManaway, James Surls, Robin O'Neil, Lance Letscher, David Bates, and more. Bates, a perennial favorite from North Texas who recently announced his retirement, has a significant work in this auction with the mixed-media-on-panel titled Cannas, from 2000. Roberta Smith once wrote in the New York Times of Bates: "His paintings of flowers and fruit don't sit quietly on the wall. They bristle like carpentered objects, press forward with every molecule and demand attention." Cannas, a bas-relief sculpture which Bates made in a time of mourning the deaths of both of his parents, fits the bill. There are five works by the great James Surls here, including this basswood, mahogany and painted steel On the Water with Six Flowers from 2005. Surls sculptures punctuate the state of Texas in private and public collections, indoors and out, as he becomes more and more a permanent part of the state's DNA.

Valton Tyler (American, 1944-2017). Bird Droppings II, 1999.

A surprise selection here is an enigmatic painting by Valton Tyler, titled Bird Droppings II, from 1999. Tyler's works have been increasingly sought after by collectors since The Amon Carter Museum of American Art held a Tyler retrospective in 2017. He died the same year. Known for his surrealist scenes populated by anthropomorphic, organic-mechanical forms, Tyler was a self-taught artist who lived a quiet life in the suburbs of Dallas. He grew up in Texas City and was haunted by the Texas City Disaster, considered one of the worst industrial accidents in American history. He seemed to be always working his way through a magical and vexing social, political and environmental landscape. As the Amon Carter wrote on the occasion of Tyler's retrospective: "Unconcerned with the perception of the art world, Tyler has always made art primarily for himself. 'I must draw and paint,' he says. 'If I don't, I become depressed.

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