Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 4, Fall 2009, pp. 336-337


Copyright 2009 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


This stunning catalogue investigates the adventurous accomplishments of a too-littleknown group that became known as the Fort Worth Circle. These artists shunned the typical Texas "bluebonnet school" styles of late impressionism and landscapes. Instead, they looked to European modernism for form-and inward for subject matter. The two essays-by cultural historian Scott Grant Barker and Jane Myers, Amon Carter Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings-are wonderfully paired. Barker offers a thoroughly researched account of the origins and exhibition history of these forward thinking artists, rich with anecdote and archival research. His expertise in the Circle is perhaps unparalleled. Myers delves into the players' artistic accomplishments, providing salient formal analysis and more tales.

She identifies five thematic categories that dictate the plates' arrangement. The first, "Regionalism and Beyond," follows the Circle's shift away from the regionalism that characterized Texas in the 1930s. As artist Bror Utter put it, "We thought regionalism was old hat." "The Energy of Escape: Art, Theater and Dance" focuses on the vital influence of drama and music on the group. (Dickson and Flora Reeder founded a school of theater and design for children in 1945.) "Modern Portraits" includes thirteen striking portraits, the standouts of which are Dickson Reeder's evocative image of artist Bill Bomar (wisely used as the catalogue's cover) and his Giorgio de Chirico-esque portrayal of artist Sara Shannon. The paintings in "Reasonable Unreality" (a 1944 critic's term) include the most adventuresome themes and styles, especially the mystical Aquarist and Collector by Kelly Fearing, Veronica Helfensteller's dark, often moralizing, animalia scenes, and Bror Utter's elegant surrealistic gouaches of forms that seem to be offspring of geometric creatures and modernist furniture.