Editor's note: The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum provided source material to Resource Library for the following article. The text by Michael Grauer is reprinted on December 5, 2005 in Resource Library with permission of the author and the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum directly through either this phone number or web address:


Picturing Palo Duro

April 15 - October 8, 2006


(above: Ben Carlton Mead, Battle Site at the Junction of Ceta Blanca and Palo Duro Canyon, 1974, acrylic on canvas. Courtesy Bank of America, Amarillo)


The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum's 2006 theme will recognize the 100th anniversary of the proposal to make Palo Duro Canyon a national park (it failed to make the cut for political reasons). Several exhibitions are planned that will focus on the Canyon.

Palo Duro Canyon: The Grand Canyon of Texas will examine the history, geology, and archaeology of the Palo Duro. For the sixth Panhandle-Plains Invitational Western Art Show and Sale -- 4 March through 2 April, 2006 -- each exhibiting artist has been asked to submit at least one work inspired by Palo Duro Canyon. (right: Frank Reaugh, The Chimneys (The Grand Chimney), ca.1893, pastel, PPHM)

For a more historical look at images of the Canyon, we are assembling Picturing Palo Duro to run from 15 April to 8 October, 2006. The Museum will present the numerous artistic interpretations of the "Grand Canyon of Texas" from the first known images to today.

The earliest known paintings of Palo Duro are from military expeditions searching for the source of the Red River: Captain Randolph Marcy's 1852 expedition and the Ruffner Survey of 1876. Cattleman Charles Goodnight commissioned New York artist and Albert Bierstadt protégée J. C. Cowles (1861-1951) to paint the J A Ranch and Palo Duro in 1887. These two paintings are the earliest oils of the Canyon and have become significant historical documents of Panhandle-Plains history. After Colonel Goodnight gave the paintings to the Potter County Federation of Women -- later Amarillo Federation of Women's Clubs -- in 1926 the paintings deteriorated badly. Two factors may have played a role in the deterioration: Goodnight's use of buffalo tallow as a cleaning agent for paintings and heat from radiators at the clubhouse. The Clubs eventually donated the badly damaged paintings to the Museum for safe-keeping and for eventual conservation. Hopefully, both paintings will be restored their grandeur pending available funding.

Dallas artist Frank Reaugh (1860-1945) painted and photographed the Goodnight Ranch, J A Ranch, and in the Canyon in 1893, and returned periodically to Palo Duro and nearby Tule Canyon until the 1930s. Palo Duro continued to inspire artists such as Georgia O'Keeffe, Victor Higgins, Reveau Bassett, and Alexandre Hogue through the early twentieth century. West Texas State College sponsored the Palo Duro School of Art during the 1930s and 1940s, with faculty that included Adele Brunet, A. W. Mack, Amy Jackson, Isabel Robinson, and H. D. Bugbee. Since mid century more recent painters of the American West have pictured the Canyon, such as artists from the area Jim Ward, Don Ray, and Jack Sorenson, and those from outside the region such as G. Harvey, Wilson Hurley, Daryl Howard, Kenneth Holder, and Don Edelman.

The Amarillo Art Association, led by Emma Hendricks, brought Minnesota painter Nicholas R. Brewer (1857-1949) to Amarillo in November 1928. Following an exhibition of paintings by Brewer and his contemporaries on the mezzanine at the Hotel Herring, he set up a studio in "one of the large sample room [sic] adjacent to the Mezzanine floor," according to the Amarillo Daily News, November 8, 1928. There Brewer began painting portraits of "prominent Amarillo persons" and according to the December 1, 1928 Amarillo Daily News had completed portraits of "Mayor and Mrs. Lee Bivins, Col. C. T. Herring, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Sneed, Col. E. O. Thompson and Dr. J. A. Hill of Canyon." (left: Frank Reaugh, Towards Head of Canon, ca. 1893, pastel, PPHM)

However, during his month's stay in Amarillo, Brewer traveled to Palo Duro Canyon to paint landscapes, including Shadows of Palo Duro, which he exhibited at the Herring. The Amarillo Daily News commented that Brewer was the "third prominent visiting artist to paint a landscape with the Palo Duro canyon [sic] as his subject." The News reported that New Mexico artists Victor Higgins and J. R. Willis "made the canyon the subject of beautiful paintings."

The News also described how Brewer's Shadows of Palo Duro would remain in an unnamed Amarillo home. Higgins's 1923 Palo Duro Canyon now hangs in the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis -- a piece of Panhandle-Plains history that got away -- and he allegedly painted at least one other painting of Palo Duro. Brewer's and Willis's Palo Duro Canyon paintings remain unlocated.

-- Michael R. Grauer, Curator of Art


Resource Library editor's notes:

Readers knowing the location of any of Brewer's or Willis's paintings of the Canyon, or anyone knowing of an historic painting of Palo Duro Canyon, are asked to please contact Michael R. Grauer, the Museum's curator of art, at mgrauer@pphm.wtamu.edu or telephone at 806-651-2262.

In July 2005 the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum produced its first podcast, an overview of Granville Bruce: Old Texas. The podcast was made available on the PPHM website. It was produced by Buster Ratliff, PPHM Operations Coordinator, and included a gallery talk by Michael Grauer. (left: iPod image courtesy Apple Computer)

Podcasting provides audio broadcasting via the Internet and can be downloaded through an iPod or MP3 player. In addition to music, podcasts are used like a radio talk show or promotional piece to enhance existing text. (right: Palo Duro Canyon, circa 1900)

In a conversation with Resource Library on December 5, 2005 Mr. Ratliff said that the Picturing Palo Duro exhibit will be accompanied by a podcast posted on the PPHM website and will include a gallery talk by Michael Grauer. The podcast series being developed in connection with the museum's exhibitions are being saved for inclusion in a future page in the PPHM website.

Within the dates of its recent Granville Bruce: Old Texas exhibit the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum sponsored a Palo Duro Paint Out. Artists in any medium had the opportunity to paint plein aire in beautiful Palo Duro Canyon, during "Palo Duro Paint Out." Acclaimed watercolorist Walt Davis assisted artists in finding locations and the right times for optimum lighting on inspiring subjects. Participants presented a closing exhibition of work produced during the event. PPHM provided transportation to and from Canyon and Palo Duro Canyon State Park, as well as lunches and snacks each day. Saturday evening, participants enjoyed a catered meal in the canyon. The classes were held Friday, September 23 through Sunday September 25, 2005.

Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Ms. Linda Moreland, Marketing Director at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, for assistance concerning the republishing of the above article.

Resource Library readers can listen to podcasts and other audio at Audio online, TFAO's catalogue of free online streaming and download audio recordings.

Readers may also enjoy:

John Hazeltine, director of TFAO, toured west Texas art museums in April, 2013. While visiting the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum he met Michael R. Grauer, Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs/ Curator of Art at the Museum. Mr. Grauer has written several texts published in Resource Library. They are listed in TFAO's Author Study and Index. (left: Michael R. Grauer, 2013. Photo by John Hazeltine)

The Museum's website said of Mr. Grauer as of 2013:

Michael Grauer directs PPHM's curatorial staff, is the museum's Curator of Art, and oversees the weapons, sports, and cowboy and ranching artifact collections. Born in Kansas City, Kansas, he received a bachelor's degree with a double major in art history and painting from the University of Kansas and a master's degree in Art History from Southern Methodist University. After college he worked at the Smithsonian American Museum of Art in Washington, D.C. Michael didn't always plan on an art career, though. Originally, he wanted to play professional football or be a cowboy. Instead he went to art school, "because I could draw horses better than anyone and I didn't know what else to do." If Michael could live anywhere else in the world, it would be Taos, New Mexico (for the art scene) or Saskatchewan (because the name "sounds cool").

To view TFAO photo library images allowing viewers of artworks on this page to compare photographic images with the artistic interpretations, please click here for set one and here for set two.

For further biographical information on artists mentioned in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Resource Library.

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