Following Frank Reaugh: A Preview

Guest Post by Michael Duty, OCP volunteer and art sale coordinator

In the early 1880s, cattlemen brothers Frank and Romie Houston invited a young artist from Terrell to join them on a cattle drive just south of the Wichita River near Wichita Falls (which at the time was hardly more than a water stop on the Fort Worth and Denver rail route). The round up proved to be a pivotal experience for budding artist, Frank Reaugh. He had only recently moved from Illinois with his parents to a cotton farm in the fertile bottom land just thirty miles from Dallas. While his parents worked the land, Reaugh set about honing his natural artistic skills by copying the paintings he found as illustrations in magazines and the pictures of animals that he found in the works of naturalists Louis Agassiz and John Burroughs. He had a talent for drawing, an interest in the natural world, and the ability to record the nuances of light, color, and shadow that he observed on the Texas prairie.

His time in the saddle with the Houston brothers introduced him to the two subjects that would dominate much of his long artistic career, the Texas longhorn and the Texas landscape. Even after he completed studies at the School of Fine Arts in St. Louis and the Academie Julien in Paris, he returned to those two subjects for the rest of his life and he mastered their depiction in oils and pastels like few other artists who came either before or after him.

He also came back to Texas and stayed there, moving to Dallas in 1890, where he quickly established himself as a leading figure on both the local and state art scene. Along with his father he built a studio in the backyard of the family’s home in Oak Cliff and christened it “The Iron Shed.” He later built a more elaborate studio called “El Sibil.” From those two Dallas vantage points, Reaugh produced over 7,000 paintings and drawings in a career that stretched over five decades.

During that time, Reaugh’s work was widely exhibited throughout the country at prestigious art shows and museums. He was also an influential teacher and helped guide the careers of several noted Dallas artists, including Reveau Bassett, Olin Travis, Alexandre Hogue, and Florence McClung. He led annual painting trips to the farthest reaches of West Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. He helped establish the organization that eventually became the Dallas Museum of Art and was a champion of the Dallas art scene until his death in 1945.

Today, Reaugh’s works are preserved in several museum collections. The two major repositories of his works are the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum in Canyon and the Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas in Austin, which houses perhaps his most famous and accomplished series of paintings—seven large pastels titled, “24 Hours with the Herd.” Although painted in the 1930s, the series had its genesis in those early round ups along the Wichita River in his very earliest days as an artist.

In recent years, Reaugh’s career has continued to receive critical attention through museum exhibitions and publications. His works are highly sought after by collectors and a few of his oils have fetched auction prices in the six figures. He also continues to influence new generations of artists who venture into the Texas countryside to paint.

Many of those artists will participate in a program at Old City Park designed to pay homage to Reaugh as an artist and teacher. “Following Frank Reaugh: A Celebration of Plein Air Painting,” and art exhibition and sale, will be held at OCP October 3-5. Entries are currently being accepted for the sale which will be restricted to plein air works. Any artist interested in participating can find the details by visiting The featured artist for the event will be Lindy Severns, an award winning artist from Fort Davis, who like Reaugh, specializes in pastels to capture the beauty of the Texas landscape. The weekend will feature a number of programs and activities in addition to the art sale.

Artists are invited to paint in the Park and you may see a few working behind their easels on your next visit to the museum. If you do, take a moment to visit with them and come back in October to see the finished works.