In this very large exhibition, 57 works of early Texas art, there are two paintings that should be seen, for historical reasons. One is On Texas Waters: USS Constitution; this wooden-hulled, three-masted frigate won many victories in the War of 1812, and became much-loved, nick-named "Old Ironsides" by Oliver Wendell Holmes. It went on a three-year tour from 1931 to 1934, and was painted by Paul R. Schumann in 1932 as it appeared in full sail in Galveston Bay. It anchors the exhibition with a specific moment in local history.
The second is a 1936 portrait, 40 inches by 28 inches, by Emma Richardson Cherry of her son-in-law, titled Major Reid. It shows him to be handsome, in uniform, and its warm tan tones here posit the glamor of war, ignoring for a moment the agony in the trenches. The painting resonates with love, almost palpable, alive after all these years.
A third painting of an historical event, though not connected to Houston, is The Last Meeting of Lee and Jackson, 1864, after Everett B.D. The generals are on horseback, and the painting seems static, a moment frozen in time.
Robert Wood's Hill Country Landscape with Bluebonnets, 1940, is compelling, dominating the central room of the new, very spacious and handsome quarters for William Reaves Fine Art. The painting's sky is blue and white, with the field of bluebonnets in the foreground, and grassy rolling hills in the middle. There are strong trees, and the contrast between them and the placid unassuming beauty of the bluebonnets is powerful.
Fall Landscape, 1911, by Hale Bolton, seems subdued, but is instead riveting. It uses browns, shows largely bare trees, long shadows from a sun close to setting. There is only a tiny glimpse of a sky, with the quiet, seductive trees generously spaced apart, leaving ample room for a leisurely ramble. It is deliberately painted with no flash, simply stating: this is what it is, savor it.
Untitled Landscape, (Turquoise Mine), 1936, by Ruth Pershing Uhler is fortunately hung where one can view it up close and at a distance as well, providing rewards on both viewings. It is filled with rolling, curved black hills, a New Mexico setting, with one cascading over the other. There is a sliver of sky, a few subdued splashes of dark red, indicating houses. The raw power of nature here seems formidable in these black hills, perhaps even threatening, but the curves still entice, and the white mist rising from the valleys outlines the curves and may suggest a glimmer of hope.
Untitled, by Edith Mae Brisac, is a townscape, houses huddled together, several trees, two of them large, one pale green and one russet, in the foreground. There is at the right a four-story residence, with a fifth attic story, and a yard with an open wooden fence, delineating boundaries without impeding the view. A few of the other houses have some walls that have been whitewashed, breaking the monotony of brick. The work is strangely compelling, with a crispness and a clarity that is remarkable.
There is more, much more, so in planning your visit, leave time to enjoy this varied and absorbing exhibition of some of Texas's historic artists. William Reaves Fine Art collaborated with a leading San Antonio dealer, Paul Buehler Fine Art, to offer this extensive selection of historic Texas art.
Texas Visions of an Earlier Time: An Exhibition of Historic Texas Art, through December 20, William Reaves Fine Art, 2143 Westheimer, open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 713-521-7500, reavesart.com.