DescriptionOLIN TRAVIS (American, 1888-1975)
Red Mountain, circa 1938
Oil on masonite
35 x 47 inches (88.9 x 119.4 cm)
Signed lower right: Olin Travis
Titled and signed verso: Red Mountain/ by/ Olin Travis
Josephine Oliver Travis, wife of the artist;
Jean and Joseph K. Oliver, brother of J.O. Travis, by inheritance.
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, "9th Annual Dallas Allied Arts Exhibition," March 20-April 17, 1938;
Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas, "Olin Travis: Texas Master," 1995, exhibit no. 72 (label verso);
The McKinney Avenue Contemporary, Dallas, "Olin Travis: People, Places and Visions," 2009.
The McKinney Avenue Contemporary, Olin Travis: People, Places and Visions, exhibition catalogue, 2009, p. 17, illus.
According to Travis historian Sam Blain, this painting probably depicts Red Mountain, a set of three peaks in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Travis showed Red Mountain at the 9th Annual Dallas Allied Arts Exhibition. It was also featured on the cover of the catalog for the 2009 exhibition titled "Olin Travis: People, Places and Visions" at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary in Dallas.
OLIN TRAVIS: TEXAS MASTER
Considered Dallas's first native-born professional artist, Olin Herman Travis (1888-1976) impacted the arts in Texas as painter, muralist, and teacher. Younger than the "Old Guard" of Texas art--such as Frank Reaugh [lots 67036 and 67037] and Robert J. Onderdonk--and older than the Lone Star Regionalists (Jerry Bywaters [lot 67006], Alexandre Hogue, and Florence McClung [lot 67073]), Travis exhibited with both generations and trained the younger ones for national recognition.
Travis's neighbor, Dallas sculptor Clyde Giltner Chandler, and an introduction to San Augustine painter S. Seymour Thomas sparked Travis's interest in art. He later studied under Dallas artists Vivian Aunspaugh, Frank Reaugh, and R. Jerome Hill and was also active in both the Dallas Art League and the Dallas Art Association.
In 1909, Travis enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago where he demonstrated against the Armory Show (a controversial exhibition of European and American Modern art) in 1913. He began teaching at the AIC the following year and later at the Chicago Commercial Art School.
Following his marriage to Kathryne Hail, a former student, the Travises traveled throughout the United States sketching and painting before returning to Dallas in 1924. Two years later the Travises founded the Art Institute of Dallas, which Olin directed through 1940-41. Eventually the AID became part of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, and Travis turned to private teaching. Travis also taught at the San Antonio Art Institute; Austin College at Sherman, Texas; and the Hockaday School at Dallas.
Some of the leading Texas artists of the 1930s and 1940s taught and studied at the Institute at Travis's invitation, including Reveau Bassett, James Brooks, Charles T. Bowling, Jerry Bywaters, Harry Carnohan [lots 67009 and 67010], Harriett Grandstaff, Alexandre Hogue, William Lester [lot 67016], Thomas M. Stell Jr., Allie Tennant, Kathryne Hail Travis, and Amelia Urbach.
The Travises also conducted a summer art school in the mountains near Cass, Arkansas, from the 1920s through the mid-1930s. A studio fire ended the school abruptly in the mid-1930s, destroying many Travis paintings. Yet, Travis "discovered" future "Lone Star Regionalist" Everett Spruce there and encouraged him to study at the Art Institute of Dallas. Eventually Spruce achieved national fame for his paintings.
Paralleling his accomplishments as teacher, Travis also had an impressive exhibition record, which included the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art at New York. In Texas, Travis exhibited at the Texas artists annual at Fort Worth, the annual Dallas Allied Arts, the Texas Centennial Exposition (1936), and the Greater Texas and Pan-American Exposition (1937). Travis exhibited his most acclaimed painting, Whither, in a solo show at the New York Art Center in 1930 and in "Paintings and Sculpture From Sixteen American Cities" at the Museum of Modern Art in 1933-34. The Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (now the Dallas Museum of Art) also held at least three solo exhibitions for Travis.
Travis painted in Arkansas, Colorado, Mexico, and Texas. He accompanied Frank Reaugh and other students on a trip to Palo Duro Canyon in 1934. Travis's second wife, Josephine Oliver, was Reaugh's protégée and an accomplished painter in her own right. She eventually played violin for the Dallas and San Antonio Symphony Orchestras.
Travis saw the decline of American Impressionism and the birth of American Modernism and Regionalism and experimented in all those styles. Moreover, Travis's strong feelings about certain issues spurred him to create a significant body of allegorical works.
The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum at Canyon, Texas, organized a retrospective on Olin Travis in 1995. In 2009, the McKinney Avenue Contemporary as part of its decade-long celebration of early Texas artists, organized "Olin Travis: People, Places and Visions," which featured Red Mountain on the cover.
As teacher, muralist, and painter, Olin Travis holds a high place in the pantheon of Texas art. Through his own works and through that of his students, he deserves to be called a Texas old master.
Michael R. Grauer
Estimate: $40,000 - $60,000.
Overall craquelure, commensurate with age, with scattered paint lifting in white clouds; minor accretions in sky region of upper left quadrant; two tiny paint chips in blue sky, upper central region; tiny paint chip in green diagonal strip, lower left quadrant; otherwise good condition.
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