Pastel Poet of the Panhandle Plains

by April Chaffin August 05, 2013

We recently became acquainted, by way of Lorenzo Chavez on Facebook, with Texas artist Frank Reaugh (pronounced Ray), a true pioneer western artist, inventor, naturalist, musician, photographer, and teacher who lived from 1860-1945. His work includes 7,000 paintings, primarily in pastel (he made his own pastels) but also in watercolor, oils and charcoal. Reaugh moved to the Texas prairie with his parents in 1876 at the age of fifteen. Surrounded by open range, he used his talent for drawing to study the herds of cattle and sheep, their anatomy and behavior. He also participated in roundups and cattle drives, and documented them in his work. He traveled to St. Louis in 1884 to attend the School of Fine Arts, and then studied at the Académie Julian in Paris during the winter of 1888-9. He was especially impressed by the rural scenes of Dutch artist Anton Mauve, and traveled to Holland to see his work there, along with other members of the Hague school. Returning to Texas, he exhibited nationally and became a popular instructor. He would take a class out on the prairie for weeks or months at a time, teaching not only painting but also the observation of one's surroundings and the names of trees, flowers, animals, birds and even the planets and constellations. "Study art, not to do, but to know, then it may be that what you do will be worthwhile… Art should be taught with the view of training both the vision and the mind, and especially the mind. It should be as important a part of learning as mathematics." There is a large collection of his work at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas, at Texas Tech in Lubbock and at the University of Texas at Austin. A documentary film is being made about him.



April Chaffin
April Chaffin

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