The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, presents the exhibition “Frank Reaugh: Landscapes of Texas and the American West.” The exhibition explores the life and work of artist, educator, inventor and naturalist Charles Franklin Reaugh (1860–1945), pronounced “Ray.” One of the Southwest’s earliest and most distinguished artists, Reaugh worked in the vein of American Impressionism and devoted his career to visually documenting the vast, unsettled regions of the Southwest before the turn of the 20th century.
The exhibition, which runs from Aug. 4 through Nov. 29, offers a rare opportunity for visitors to experience a historical survey of the most significant works created by an artist often referred to as “the Dean of (early) Texas Artists.”
Born in southern Illinois, Reaugh arrived in Texas by covered wagon in 1876 and was sketching memorable scenes by the early 1880s while riding with trail drivers at the height of Texas’ cattle roundups. The vast southwestern prairie and native Longhorn cattle quickly became lifelong subjects of study for Reaugh. “No other artist had the opportunity or the desire to paint such subjects,” Reaugh once stated. “Now the subjects have passed. They will not be painted with like authenticity again.”
Drawing on more than 100 artworks in the Ransom Center’s Frank Reaugh collection, as well as other archives, museums and private collections across the state, the exhibition examines Reaugh’s mastery of the pastel medium and his sophisticated yet direct approach to the challenges of landscape painting, particularly en plein air (painting outdoors). Although Reaugh’s contributions have often been linked to the region, his work holds broad historical precedents within the evolution of art of the American West.
“As a witness to the cattle drives of the 1880s and the trail drivers’ way of life, Reaugh gave his artworks an authoritative quality that will undoubtedly sustain his well-deserved reputation as the painter of the Texas Longhorn for many years to come,” said Peter F. Mears, curator of art at the Ransom Center. “Yet Frank Reaugh was more—far more—than simply a cattle painter.”