This exhibition displayed prints, drawings, and archival materials documenting the career of Everett Spruce, a member of the loosely affiliated group of artists known in the 1930s and 1940s as the “Dallas Nine.” The exhibition was drawn from Spruce’s papers, which comprise part of the holdings of the Hamon’s Jerry Bywaters Special Collections Wing, along with those of fellow “Dallas Nine” artists Jerry Bywaters, Otis Dozier, and William Lester.
A farm boy from Arkansas, Spruce was encouraged to move to Dallas in 1926 by family friend Olin Travis, founder of the Dallas Art Institute (DAI). He studied under Travis and Thomas Stell for five years before taking a position in 1931 as a gallery assistant with the Dallas Public Art Gallery, forerunner of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (DMFA), then located in the Dallas Power and Light Company building. He was promoted to registrar when the DMFA opened in 1936, and then to assistant director. In 1932, Spruce’s work was included in the “Exhibition of Nine Artists Under the Age of Thirty” at the Dallas Public Art Gallery and he soon began to exhibit his work across the country. In 1936, his painting Ozark Mountaineer was accepted for inclusion in the Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture by the Art Institute of Chicago. From 1936 until 1939, his paintings were selected for eleven different exhibitions across the United States, including one-man shows at galleries in New York in 1937 and 1938. In 1939, his painting The Hawk was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
In 1940, Spruce accepted a position as instructor in life drawing and creative design at the University of Texas at Austin. He became a full professor and, from 1949 to 1951, served as chairman of the art department. He retired as professor emeritus in 1974. Although many of his early paintings were based on scenes in the Ozarks, for the majority of his career Spruce concentrated on the landscape of his adopted state of Texas. He worked primarily in the Hill Country, Big Bend area, Gulf Coast, and West Texas. As an expressionist, he sought to capture not an exact likeness of his subject but rather to evoke his feelings in response to a specific scene. He also incorporated elements of cubism and surrealism in some works and experimented briefly with nonobjective abstraction. Spruce’s early work was about form while his later work focused more on color. He eventually was represented by works in the permanent collection of over thirty museums and public collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City as well as the MOMA.
Spruce was married to fellow artist Alice Virginia Kramer in Dallas on February 18, 1934; they had twin daughters and two sons.
For additional information:
Carraro, Francine. Companions in Time: The Paintings of William Lester and Everett Spruce. Austin, TX: Laguna Gloria Art Museum, 1993.
Powers, John and Deborah. Texas Artists, Sculptures, and Graphic Artists. Austin, TX: Woodmont Books, 2000.
Stewart, Rick. Lone Star Regionalism: The Dallas Nine and Their Circle, 1928–1945. Austin, TX: Texas Monthly Press, 1985.
Adapted from Spruce entry by W. Russ Aikman in The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture