Artist, educator, inventor and naturalist, Charles Franklin Reaugh (1860-1945) is one of the Southwest's earliest and most distinguished artists. Acknowledged as the "Dean of Texas Artists," Frank Reaugh (pronounced Ray) devoted his career to visually documenting the vast, unsettled regions of the southwest in pastel and paint as he had experienced it before the turn of the century.
"It is my hope that my pictures portraying those times, aside from any artistic merit that they may possess, will tell their story, and will be preserved because of historical value; for 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."
In 1876, at the age of fifteen, Frank Reaugh moved with his family by covered wagon from rural Southern Illinois to Terrell, Texas, thirty miles east of Dallas. There, on the family's cotton farm, Reaugh developed his artistic skills by copying the works of European masters from magazines and from illustrations found in large-animal anatomy books. In the early 1880's, Reaugh met cattlemen Frank and Romie Houston who provided a once in a lifetime opportunity for Reaugh to ride with them during the great round-up. Both men exposed him to the realities and the romance of those golden years on the trail and may have extended financial support to further his artistic studies. Between 1884 and 1889, Reaugh attended fine arts schools in St. Louis and Paris; exposure to fine examples of the pastel medium at the Louvre greatly influenced his development. In 1890, he moved with his family to the new and growing community of Oak Cliff, south of Dallas. There, Reaugh and his father built a metal studio building in the back yard called "The Ironshed." Over the next decade, Reaugh's work would gain attention and deserved national recognition through juried and invitational art exhibitions such as the Chicago (1893) and St. Louis (1903) World Fairs.
For the arts communities of Terrell and Dallas, Texas, Frank Reaugh was both a model artist and an influential arts educator. Many of Reaugh's students (and artistic peers), such as Reveau Bassett, Olin Travis, Edward G. Eisenlohr, Alexander Hogue and Oscar Griffith, gained regional and national prominence in the early twentieth century. The Frank Reaugh Art Club, The Dallas School of Fine Arts and especially the Striginian Club were both educational and social organizations that strongly advocated for a greater awareness of and appreciation for "nature's design and nature's laws."
By 1906, students were traveling West on sketching trips with Reaugh on what would become annual events; first by horse, mule and wagon and later by automobile. In 1920, Frank Reaugh's custom built, open-air Ford touring bus, nicknamed Cicada made its maiden voyage west and continued to be employed for almost two decades on annual sketch trips that ranged from the Texas Panhandle south to Big Bend and west to sites in New Mexico and Arizona.
". . . No other medium can so truthfully give the freshness and bloom of childhood complexion, or the feeling of air in landscape. . . . Pastels are particularly suited to outdoor sketching. One advantage is readiness. The palette is set. The colors are mixed. . . . All this makes for speed: the essential in landscape sketching, where effects are fleeting. . . . Nature's beauty of design is matchless. Man's invention compares with it much as his feats of engineering compare with the motion of the stars."
From the brochure Pastel, published in 1927 by The Reaugh Studios, Dallas, Texas.
Frank Reaugh and his associates manufactured boxed pastels, special coated papers and patented "lap easels" for retail and mail order sales to budding artists all over the Southwest.
Over his lifetime, Frank Reaugh invented a number of useful and imaginatively novel tools for artists, such as a folding lap easel and a compact carrying case for pastels. Reaugh also created and marketed his own brand of pastels, blended to color match the region's native flora. Each pastel was cast in a hexagonal shape for ease of handling and packing in the field.
Like any artist, Reaugh had specific ideas about a functional and well-designed studio environment. In 1928-1929, Reaugh built his now famous concrete and stucco studio, El Sibil (the Vault) which still stands at the corner of Fifth and Crawford Streets overlooking Lake Cliff Park, south of Dallas. Influenced by Southern Mediterranean and Mayan architecture, El Sibil contained a storage vault for paintings, a studio and music performance space, classrooms and living quarters. The open air Cicada art bus, which carried Reaugh and his intrepid crew of art students thousands of miles throughout the Southwest on sketching trips, was "Reaugh-designed" from its Model T Ford frame up. It contained fold-out seats for sleeping and a chuck box at the rear for camp cooking as well as storage for water, gas, and trip supplies, limited to 30 pounds per person. The roof carried the autographs and graffiti of artist and student passengers. Reaugh also invented a number of industrial items such as the Limacon Pump, a revolutionary rotary design whose variations could pump air, oil and water for a variety of industrial uses. The pump and the lap easel designs both carried U.S. patents.
The Frank Reaugh Collection
"I came to know Frank Reaugh along in the 1930's on his visits to Austin from Dallas, chaperoned by some admiring lady. He was bent on having the University of T(e)x(a)s accept a collection of his longhorn pictures. . . . He saw the longhorn as a rather exquisite animal, not rangy at all. While beautiful and distant, his longhorns (boldly) suggest open ranges, ranches and ranch people associated with them. . . ."
J. Frank Dobie
April 20, 1963.
During the late 1930's, Frank Reaugh searched earnestly for an institution in the Southwest to exhibit and preserve his art work. In 1937, eight years before his death, he gave a portion of his private collection of pastel and oil paintings to The University of Texas at Austin. Historians J. Frank Dobie and J. Evetts Haley admired Reaugh and included him in their publications.
The Ransom Center holds over 200 art works created by Frank Reaugh including pastel landscapes, charcoal sketches, pen and ink drawings, and oil paintings. Subjects include Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming landscapes; rural buildings and fences; ruins of Fort McKavitt; various domestic and wild animals including Longhorns; detailed studies of native flora; dramatic weather conditions; and the large-scale series of seven pastel drawings titled Twenty-four Hours with the Herd.
Access to the Harry Ransom Center Collections:
The Art Collection
Harry Ransom Center
Phone: (512) 471-4663
Fax: (512) 232-6406
The J. Frank Dobie Collection
Other Frank Reaugh Resourses & Public Collections
The Briscoe Center for American History
Sid Richardson Hall
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, Texas 78712
The Frank Reaugh Papers
Fax: (512) 495-4542
The Panhandle Plains Museum
2503 4th Avenue
Canyon, Texas 79015
The Dallas Museum of Art
1717 North Harwood
Dallas, Texas 75201
(214) 922-1200 Fax: (214) 954-0174
The Dallas Public Library
1515 Young Street
Dallas, Texas 75201
The State Preservation Board
The Texas State Capitol
PO Box 13286
Austin, Texas 78711
(512) 463-5495 Fax: (512) 463-3372
Bywaters Special Collections
Hamon Arts Library
Southern Methodist University
6100 Hillcrest Avenue
Dallas, Texas 75275-0356
(214) 768-2894 Fax: (214) 768-1800
National Ranching Heritage Center
Frank Reaugh Collection (1906–1945)
Texas Tech University
3121 4th Street
Lubbock, Texas 79409
The Handbook of Texas Online
Listing for Charles Franklin Reaugh
The Bryan Museum
1315 21st Street
Galveston, Texas 77550