Denton is a college town, home to two major universities, so it's no surprise that UNT on the Square gallery welcomes an exhibition from the "Dean of Texas painting," artist Frank Reaugh (1860-1945). The gallery presents Frank Reaugh: Master of Pastels and the Plains of Texas, a collection of Reaugh's work and personal items, from private letters and sketches to his more famous impressionistic paintings of the wide Texas cattle lands.
The Texas transplant was born in Illinois but moved with his parents by covered wagon to a farm near Terrell as a teenager. Inspired by the Lone Star state's rustic landscapes, at age 30, Reaugh (pronounced Ray) opened his art studio, The Ironshed, in Oak Cliff.
There he taught art classes (later he opened the Dallas School of Fine Arts) and built up his body of work, both pastel works and oil paintings, which capture Texas plains and pastures with haunting accuracy. The exhibition includes large paintings of the Llano Estacado, the Brazos Valley and even a portrait of his favorite horse.
The exhibition also features a display case full of memorabilia from the artist's life, including two boxes of chalk pastels that span the color spectrum. Next to them lie pictures of the artist with some of his students, whom he took on long sketching expeditions to West Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.
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At the top of the case sits a portrait of Reaugh with a quote underneath that reads, "... The steer and the cowboy have gone. The range has been fenced and plowed and the beauty of the early days is but a memory." With his paintings, Reaugh hoped to immortalize the untainted Texas landscape.
Those not native to Texas will appreciate his talent, those who are will get a pinch of nostalgia when they browse the exhibition. Whether you're looking at Reaugh's interpretation of a colorful sunset in a stretching panorama or his painting of a cattle drive over a sun-scorched Texas prairie, this collection evokes a yearning for a simpler time when ranchers ruled the open range.
Frank Reaugh: Master of Pastels and the Plains of Texas is on display through October 1. UNT on the Square is open from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. Call 940-369-8257 or visit untonthesquare.unt.edu for more information.