The Dallas Nine and More in Fort Worth

Fort Worth Art CollectorsIt was the tenth anniversary of the Collectors of Fort Worth Art Show and Sale of Early Texas Art at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, but our second time at the show. The event seemed somewhat downsized from the year before, and some of the work was, as could be expected from such a narrow category, revisited. Still the range of what was offered was wide. Sure, there were the blue bonnet and cow paintings, but there was also still life, industrial scenes, figure drawings and modernism.

While I did not notice any works by the prototypical Julian Onderdonk, there were a number of attractive landscapes with tonalist qualities. One that stuck out for us was by Dennis Blagg, graphite on paper, Study for Red Desert offered by Carter Bowden Antiques. I wish we had been able to take a photo, but that’s difficult when a work is under glass, which is necessary for a work on paper.

A reclining male figure positioned in a rather difficult position to draw seemed exceptionally well accomplished. It turned out this work was by Fort Worth resident Jill Bush. Born in Grand Island, Nebraska, she earned a BA Design Degree from Texas Tech University. Her work is in numerous collections in Texas. Bush also taught at the Fort Worth Art Museum School in the late 1960s.

KlepperThe first painting that had that look that pulls you towards it was by Frank Klepper. Local historian Scott Barker noticed my interest and pulled out Texas Painters, Sculptors, and Graphic Artists: A Biographical Dictionary of Artists in Texas Before 1942, a handy book to have, but one with a Texas-sized price tag. Klepper was born in Plano, Texas but went to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1914 to study. He moved to Dallas in 1927 where he was a successful teacher and known for his landscapes. He co-founded the Southwestern School of Fine Arts. Later he painted murals for the Works Progress Administration in Prairie View College, Hempstead, Texas and in McKinney, Texas. Notice the big sky, redish landscape and perfect frame. Its funny how some of the best Texas landscapes fit on very small canvases. This work was offered by Russell Tether Fine Art, Dallas.

MartinBaerJust before leaving, we zeroed in on painting from the late 1950s that has little if anything to do with Texas. In fact, the only thing may be its being here. Martin Baer was likely far away from Texas, perhaps even in Europe when he painted this expressionist canvas depicting tubes of paint. The painting was offered by Weiler House of Fort Worth.

Any lasting impact of the show may be in inspiring me to find out more about the Dallas Nine, and learn who they are. One attractive painting by Charles Bowling was labeled as being one of the Dallas Nine artists. I had heard the Dallas Nine came earlier than most of the well-known Fort Worth artists, and Bowling was born in 1891. He lived into his nineties, but had given up art in 1965. The artists most closely identified with the Dallas Nine seem to have been the men who lobbied the Texas Centennial Commission unsuccessfully for the privilege of decorating the walls of the Hall of State, the main building of the Centennial Exposition in Dallas (1936), although there are more than nine who fall under the moniker. More on them in a later post.

I would like to add that it does not seem the show is widely advertised. I was informed twice by word of mouth that it was taking place, and I think I am pretty much in the loop in regards to art events in the metroplex, yet I didn’t read about it anywhere. It even took me a while to get a result on Google, and I only accomplished that just before the show began. I heard rumblings that it wasn’t a sure thing the show would continue into its 11th year, but I hope it does. There’s great stuff here and its a fun event and a great learning (and even buying) opportunity, but they’ve gotta get the word out.

The Dallas Nine
Art Collector John Clay stands with Morris Matson, Collector and Dealer at the Show

About Eric Miller

Eric Miller is co-founder and contributor to Urban Art & Antiques. His website is ericmiller.me

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