The passing of Texas regionalist pioneer painter Everett Spruce
In Memoriam: Everett Spruce
He was one of the "Dallas Nine," a group of Lone Star artists who rejected impressionism, abstractionism, and other European trends for naturalistic depictions of the life and landscapes of their native Southwest, and now he's gone. Everett F. Spruce, whose pioneering work as an American regionalist painter and whose decades of service on the UT-Austin faculty made him a significant figure in the cultural life of our state, died Friday, Oct. 18, at the age of 94. Born a farmboy in Arkansas, Spruce moved to Dallas at age 17 to study at the Dallas Art Institute and never looked back. Over the next 15 years, he became active as an administrator with the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, but more significantly joined forces with the painters Thomas Stell, William Lester, Otis Dozier, and Jerry Bywaters, among others, to focus their artistic energies on painting the region in which they lived. In 1940, he was recruited by the legendary William Doty to join the art faculty of the UT-Austin College of Fine Arts, which was only two years old at the time, but boasted an illustrious array of creators: Spruce's Dallas colleague Lester, WPA muralist and landscape painter Loren Mozley, Ralph White (whose seven-decade retrospective is currently on view at Gallery 1313), pioneering Texas modernist and Fort Worth Circle member Kelly Fearing (who just enjoyed a six-decade retrospective at Flatbed World Headquarters), and the sculptor who became the artist perhaps most identified with Austin, Charles Umlauf. Spruce stayed with the department for 34 years, even chairing it from 1949 to 1951. Though he retired as professor emeritus in 1974, he continued to paint into his late 80s. The last major showing of his work locally was the 1993 exhibition "Companions in Time: The Paintings of William Lester and Everett Spruce" at the Laguna Gloria Art Museum, now the Austin Museum of Art. His works were shown nationally and internationally, and are included in collections from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the M.H. DeYoung Museum, San Francisco; the Phillips Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Museu de Arte Moderno, Rio de Janeiro; as well as the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts; Fort Worth Art Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Marion Kugler McNay Art Institute, San Antonio; and other museums around Texas. Memorial contributions may be made to the Gracy Woods II Employees Christmas Bonus Fund, 12042 Bittern Hollow, Austin, 78758. A memorial service will be held at a later date.