The Bywaters Special Collection staff just installed the 12 From Texas portfolio on the second floor of the Hamon Arts Library. In 1952, Southern Methodist University Press decided to, according to its press release for 12 From Texas, “make available at a reasonable price the work of outstanding regional artists.” The subject matter of these reproductions of lithographs was the Southwestern landscape in all its diversity. Jerry Bywaters, director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, conceived the idea for the portfolio, selecting the prints and writing the foreword, which was one of the first published overviews of how this medium developed in the Southwest. It was the first such publication by a Texas press, although University of New Mexico Press had published similar portfolios of regional art.
The publication was an outgrowth of the increased interest in the field of lithography and regionalism during the preceding two decades. In Texas, this interest was manifested in the founding of organizations such as the Lone Star Printmakers and the Printmakers Guild, whose respective memberships included Bywaters and several of the artists represented in 12 From Texas.
Although the portfolio included non-Texas subjects, SMU Press played to state pride in marketing 12 From Texas, asking the rhetorical question, “What nicer Christmas gift for outlanders–or expatriated Texans?” Indeed, the portfolio received overwhelmingly favorable reviews throughout the Southwest and was greeted enthusiastically in the artists’ hometowns; a Marshall bookseller went so far as to urge SMU Press to set a special publication date to coincide with the town’s honoring of Don Brown. Prominent figures in the arts, such as Samuel Golden, director of the American Artists Group, and cultural historian J.B. Jackson also praised the portfolio.
At SMU, 1952 proved to be the “year of the lithograph,” in the words of former SMU Press director Allen Maxwell. Shortly before the March publication of 12 From Texas, America’s controversial champion of regionalist art, Thomas Hart Benton, lectured at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. At the end of the year, he donated the entire edition of his only 1952 lithograph, West Texas, to SMU Press and Southwest Review for use as a fund-raiser.
The portfolio includes reproductions of lithographs by the following artists:
- Charles T. Bowling
- Don Brown
- Otis Dozier
- E. G. Eisenlohr
- Alexandre Hogue
- DeForrest H. Judd
- William Lester
- Merritt Mauzey
- E. M. Schiwetz
- Coreen Mary Spellman
- Everett Spruce
- Thomas M. Stell, Jr.
Short biographical information on each artist is included in the exhibition. Come by to see this collection!