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    Description

    OLIN TRAVIS (American, 1888-1975)
    Lakeside, 1955
    Oil on canvas
    20-1/2 x 49 inches (52.1 x 124.5 cm)
    Signed lower left and right: Olin Travis
    Titled and signed verso: "Lakeside" / by Olin Travis / Dallas, TX
    Artist's personal book plate applied verso

    "Lakeside (1955) is most definitely a 'major' painting in Travis' body of work, probably the most stylistically representative post-1940 landscape; and when the definitive 'Olin Herman Travis Retrospective' is organized, I truly hope this piece is included." Sam Blain

    There are moments in the creative life of every artist when they produce a work which distinguishes itself from the rest of their oeuvre. Lakeside, by Olin Travis, is just such a painting-a masterpiece of Texas Modernism. It is an artwork that furthers our understanding of Texas Regionalism and its place in context of the larger modernist movement. Travis, responding to a questionnaire given to him by Jerry Bywaters in 1957, chose Red and Black (1923) and Lakeside (1955) as among his best works. Travis conceived of Lakeside in order to display his skill as an artist. It was a piece he entered into a major competition, kept for many years, and was only willing to part with as a symbol of the close friendship of two families. His pride in this painting is most evident in that he signed the painting twice, in two corners, then he titled, monogrammed twice, and placed his personal bookplate/label on the back.

    Born in Dallas, Olin Travis studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and after graduation, remained with the school as an instructor. In 1923, Travis moved back to Dallas, opening a studio. Three years later, he founded the Dallas Art Institute, where he would eventually teach such Texas artists as Everrett Spruce and William Lester. Over the years, Travis exhibited in local and national shows, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. In 1953, Travis was honored with a solo exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art entitled "50 Years of Painting in Dallas: A Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Olin Travis."

    Lakeside
    is a painting loved by both the artist and the close friends to whom he eventually sold it. The work has never been available on the open market and, according to the artist himself, was only ever exhibited publicly in direct association with the prize it won at the "Seventeenth Annual Exhibition of Texas Painting and Sculpture" (1955). An image of the painting appeared next to a review of the exhibition in The Dallas Morning News on Friday, October 7, 1955. It was also published in the exhibition catalog, where in the forward Assistant Director of The Whitney Art Museum, New York, Lloyd Goodrich wrote of the exhibition, in general, "It is refreshing to find in Texas much art that seems to spring naturally from the soil and climate and character of the state, that has the virtues that come from the artist's identification with his surroundings and at the same time speaks in the universal language of form, color and design." Lakeside is a perfect illustration of this sentiment.

    Lakeside
    is an extraordinary example of Texas Modernism but it also transcends any Regionalist label. Olin Travis was so much more than a "Texas artist," and Lakeside stands out as something very special in his body of work. Sam Blain has said that, "Lakeside exhibits all of Travis' skill as a mature painter. One can see, in this painting, Travis pulling out all the stops. Travis was a skilled muralist [receiving his training under Kenyon Cox, N.A.] and this is evident in Lakeside even though it is far from being a mural in its dimensions. Travis could go on-and-on in conversations about the sky and the landscape both having anatomy. He proved it in this painting; and, perhaps, there is no better example of this in Travis' body of work." As the rediscovery of American Regional Modernism, which flourished outside New York mainstreams, continues, then interest in the brightest lights of Texas Modernism will only grow. This trend should culminate with the realization and recognition that the many "Texas" artists, like Olin Travis, are American Modernists that defy the limitations that the label "Regionalist" places on their art.

    Lakeside
    (1955) is a large and commanding canvas that creates a panoramic view of the Texas landscape. The exact location of the painting cannot be identified because it appears to be an amalgamation of several lakes in North Texas, where Travis was working during this time, most often at White Rock Lake, near Dallas. The style of the painting is crisp for the most part, if a bit hazy above the horizon in order to simulate the atmospheric qualities and luminosity of an impending sunset threatened by rainstorms. In Lakeside, the palette seems deceptively muted, but the distinctive light of the late afternoon has cast golden highlights across the land. The many variations of olive green, brown, burnt orange, and gray are highlighted by the most glorious and complex hints of vibrant but dusky pinks, yellows, blues, and lavenders, with just one clever hint of true red. The most beautiful passage of colors can be found in the upper left-hand corner where the bright yellow of the setting sun is being overtaken by a misty shower of swirling gray, lavender, and blue.

    The horizontal shape of the canvas compliments a strong composition, in which bands of contained geometric forms build upon one another level by level. Each layer of this landscape appears to contain its own abstract variations on the overall formal themes, but when viewed one upon the other they form a solidly constructed scene. This sense of structure creates an iconic and timeless quality that allows Travis to break down the formal rhythms of each section. Some of these striations are fashioned from acutely triangular crop fields of many colors. These rows are interspersed with bands of organically abstracted trees, geological formations, and their reflections in the barely visible lake. The sky is created by a softer combination of the geometric and organic elements. The clouds form long rectangles with organic rhythms and rainstorms that sweep across the horizon diagonally. Beyond similarities of rhythm, shape, and color, the horizontal stripes that make up the composition are united by their geometric relationships and lines that pass diagonally through every layer of the painting. The spatial relationships in Lakeside are a brilliant dialogue between triangles and rectangles. Indeed, tiny figures, distant settlements, and even the lake itself appear as only small and inconsequential afterthoughts, completely overshadowed by the breathtaking view. The viewer is completely awed by the power and beauty of the North Texas landscape. In this painting, Travis has methodically worked through many of the formal problems of Modernism and has used them to invoke the feelings created by experiencing such grand vistas instead of just creating an accurate representation of a specific lake.

    According to Travis scholar and friend, Sam Blain, "Olin held on to many of his own favorite paintings, throughout his lifetime. This painting was among Travis' personal favorites and even though he was sorry to have let it go, he expressed to me how pleased he was, with regards to whom it had passed from his hands." The current owner Mark Caldwell remembers well the close family relationship that existed between his parents, Martin and Betty Caldwell, and Josephine and Olin Travis. Both families were interested in the arts. They played music, painted, vacationed, and swam together. Mark wrote that, "Travis taught us, kids and all, weekly summer art lessons where he would hold court with his riveting cleverness, humor, and wit." Betty Caldwell absolutely adored this painting. "My mother hounded him for years, to let her buy Lakeside. He finally acquiesced and offered to give it to her. She refused it as a gift and bought it from him." Mark particularly appreciated that he never talked down to the children and was always interested in what they had to say. "Travis was a great family friend, a mentor, an extraordinary raconteur-a particularly magnetic human-interested, interesting, and giving. He is deeply missed." Lakeside has been treasured by the Caldwell family for many years. They are sad to see it go, but glad that it will now be better known to scholars, collectors, and lovers of Texas art.




    Condition Report*: Very good conditioin.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    July, 2009
    16th Thursday
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