Texas Made Modern: The Art of Everett Spruce opens at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art (the Carter) on August 18. Member preview dates are August 14-16, with the exhibit running through November 18. This is the first exhibition dedicated to the Dallas Nine artist in 30 years, and it showcases our diverse Texas Landscape through Spruce’s inventive art.
During Spruce’s five-decade-long career, he adapted his style and subjects to fit each era. Texas Made Modern shows the range of Spruce’s art from the 1920s to the 1970s. The artist’s visionary landscapes countered the popular narrative of Texas being seen only as a land of cattle and cowboys. From his early landscapes of West Texas to his mature paintings of folk culture and late abstract visions, Spruce’s style evolved with the changing times.
Photo: Everett Spruce (1908–2002), Serenade, ca. 1940, oil on canvas, Collection of Brian and Vicki Miller © 2019 Alice Spruce Meriwether
Spruce received national attention along the way. He was a key member of the Dallas Nine, a collective of painters, printmakers, and sculptors active on the Dallas Art scene in the 1930s and early ‘40s These artists used the land and people of the Southwest for inspiration.
“The Carter is committed to providing leading scholarship in American art, examining areas of focus that have often been underrepresented or overlooked,” said Andrew J. Walker, Executive Director. “Texas Made Modern: The Art of Everett Spruce resurfaces this great Texas artist by bringing together major paintings from his oeuvre, affirming his rightful place in the history of American art, and establishing that he was not a typical regionalist painter.”
Photo: Everett Spruce (1908–2002), Broken Jetty, Port Aransas, 1957, 0il on canvas, N. F. Crowder © 2019 Alice Spruce Meriwether
Texas Made Modern recreates Spruce’s journeys in search of inspiration. His travels to West Texas, Arkansas, the Hill Country, and Gulf Coast are shown by works that display his skills and diverse approaches to his subjects.
An extensive catalogue, featuring new scholarship addressing Spruce’s intentions with his art, accompanies the exhibition. Early works that earned national recognition, like Arkansas Landscape (1938), reveal the artist’s ability to evoke the otherworldly aspects of nature. Ten years later, works like Century Plant (1948), prompted a New York Times critic to comment that the painting “achieves an almost epic dimension.” Late in his career, Spruce conveyed the mystique of the Texas prairie in Near Rock Springs (1975). In the painting, earth touching sky exudes transcendental qualities.
Art Ambassador for Texas
Photo: Everett Spruce (1908–2002), Southwest Texas Landscape, 1936, oil on board, Mark and Geralyn Kever Collection © 2019 Alice Spruce Meriwether
“More than merely describing the scenery of Texas, Spruce translated his beliefs in their mystical aspects onto the canvas. He served in some ways as an art ambassador for Texas,” said Shirley Reece-Hughes, Curator of Paintings, Sculpture, and Works on Paper at the Carter.
By the mid-1900s, Spruce was one of the most exhibited artists from Texas. He was featured in exhibitions across the country, including the Museum of Modern Art’s Americans 1942: 18 Artists from 9 States. A number of national museums began collecting his work. The rise of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art caused Spruce and his work to fall into obscurity.
Developing Modern Art
Photo: Everett Spruce (1908-2002) Mending the Rock Fence, 1936 Oil on Masonite University Art Collection, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, UAC.1940.02
Texas Made Modern places new focus on Spruce’s role as a key figure in the development of modern art in Texas, and a vital contributor to modernist landscape painting in America. Texas Made Modern: The Art of Everett Spruce is organized by the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. The exhibition is supported in part by The Gayden Family Foundation, Heritage Auctions, The Summerlee Foundation, and the Alice L. Walton Foundation Temporary Exhibitions Endowment.
Everett Franklin Spruce (1908–2002) was born near Conway, Arkansas, in the Ozarks. With a profound influence from the natural world around him, Spruce began drawing as a youth. At 17, he received a scholarship to the Dallas Art Institute (DAI). In 1931, he was hired as a gallery assistant at the Free Public Art Gallery of Dallas (today’s Dallas Museum of Art). He became their Assistant Director from 1936–40. He then joined the art faculty of the University of Texas at Austin, retiring in 1974.
The Carter Explores American Creativity
Photo: Everett Spruce (1908-2002) Low Tide in the Gulf, 1958 Oil on board
Dallas Museum of Art, The Barrett Collection, Dallas, Texas 2007.15.52
In the 1930s, Spruce was involved with the Dallas Nine collective. By 1932 he began to receive critical acclaim that continued throughout his career. In 1937, he exhibited his first solo show in New York. Spruce received numerous prizes during his career, and his work is highlighted in many prestigious publications.
Amon Carter Museum of American Art (the Carter) explores the breadth and complexity of American creativity through an important and dynamic art collection. The Carter opened in Fort Worth art district in 1961 in a building designed by Philip Johnson. The Carter features one of the great collections of American art; and admission is free. Hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; and Sunday 12–5 p.m. For more information visit cartermuseum.org.