Early Texas Art, A Primer: Part One

CASTETA Early Texas Art

Nearly 200 people made it to the Witte Museum in San Antonio for the Annual CASETA conference. If you’re not familiar, CASETA stands for the Center for the Advancement and Study of Early Texas Art.

Before you start, there are two things to know about Early Texas Art. First, if you spend time hanging around say Boston, you may not think much of what’s here is “early.” Much of it touches on modernism, abstraction and the like, and it may be from as recent times as the 1970s. CASETA uses the idea of up to 40 years ago in the past.

Alamo Onderdonk Early Texas Art
This painting by Julian Onderdonk on display at the Witte was displayed in the George W. Bush White House.

The second thing you should know is that it’s not locals painting cactus and cowboys. Early Texas Art may have some ties to Texas- and that is what it has in common- but the subjects are diverse as are the artists. They are not one day wondering out of doors and picking up a brush as much as they are well-traveled, professionally trained and exposed to the art world, with emphasis on world.

I was mistaken, however, there is a third thing you need to know. If you have no ties to Texas, it doesn’t matter. Attendees came from at least several states, some far from the Lone Star. Texas Art is collected far and wide, and is increasing in popularity.

One reason for that may be that the economy is booming here and some new residents may have a desire to become connected. But, if comments revealed during a panel discussion are accurate, contemporary artists from Texas who have gained national prominence are instigating interest in their teachers, and teachers teachers and their circles.

These factors about Texas art and artists seem to have held true from the beginning. Hermann Lungkwitz (1813–1891), as one example, was born and trained in Germany. Born in San Antonio Julian Onderdonk went to New York to study with William Merritt Chase. Members of the Fort Worth Circle were certainly looking to Europe.

Sure, there are cows and bluebonnets, just as there would be bridges in New York or smoke stacks in Pittsburgh. But the art is as diverse as the people and landscape. And if you’ve been here, most likely it isn’t quite what you thought it was. The same is probably true for Early Texas Art.

About Eric Miller

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

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