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the first time the people of San Antonio learned that Mrs. McNay's superb collection of modern art, her impressive home, and a large and perpetual endowment were left in trust for the use and enjoyment of her adopted city. It was the largest single gift in the city's history."

The McNay Art Institute opened to the public in 1954 under the youthful and distinguished director, John Palmer Leeper, as a privately administered museum of art. The McNay museum immediately assumed a distinctive role in San Antonio. At once elitist and sophisticated, it established a concept of quality, professionalism, and resources for scholarship never before available locally.

Among the artists working today Cecil Casebier has been generally acknowledged as progenitor of a particular style of painting which dominated the post World War II period in San Antonio. The source is founded upon Cezanne's structure, with a casual acknowledgement of Cubism. Subjects are basically representational, with divisionary or directional lines imposed, or integrated as structure within the subject. Casebier maintains the solidity of recognizable subjects within a fully interrelated and mutually supportive pictorial foundation. Keith McIntyre, a sensual colorist, gave a glow to this secure structure, and Chester Toney, sparer, more elemental, emphasized it with an arid, linear surety. Bill Reily fragments subjects into simultaneously related elements or selected bits of abstract forms, and his works carry with them an understanding of both pictorial surface and spatial illusion.

Philip John Evett, working in steel and aluminum, has produced organic sculptures which influenced a considerable amount of work produced in San Antonio – a style that depends upon the properties of the metal surface, its junctures and edges, and particularly the unexpected vacancies interrupting volume, to make the human figure vital even when shattered. But some of his most elegant works are off-shoots, less “serious” smaller pieces in which Everett's humor can play felicitously with his rigid materials.

Abstract-expressionism exploded late on the San Antonio scene in an exhibition at the McNay Art Institute in 1959 and with teh presence of Theodoros Stamos as guest instructor at the San Antonio Art Institute. Pop art, if more trivial as a style, had more influence, probably because of its sociological implications and accessibility. There have been a number of young pop artists and their paradigm in San Antonio has been Mel Casas, a professor at San Antonio College. Casas is hardly a simple pop stylist; his work is complex and paradoxical, interchanging style and subject for reciprocal critical clarifications. His treatment is ironic, satirical, and simultaneously bitter and humorous: that of the very concerned man able to remain, as an artist, detached. In such a cool world Robert Tiemann's personal sources and romantic commitments are atavisms. They carry a trait notably in dispute today, the autobiographical impulse openly displayed. But pursuing a personal vision has not compromised his painting as an entity of significance within itself; although allusive, he is attentive to formal problems – a fusion difficult to maintain but authentically vital in Tiemann's work.


To single out other individuals as well as groups who have contributed significantly to the development of art in San Antonio is to post notice of all those left out. But Amy Freeman Lee is one of those who simply fit no available category: painter, sculptor, poet, lecturer, critic. Her criticism of the pre-war period was probably best in the San Antonio media have been presented. Her most consequential role has been in affecting the development of the audience for art in the city through communication of her convictions and knowledge of art – a position that is critical and educational to an impressive degree.

The colleges and universities in the city have increasingly served as art centers. In earlier years high school art teachers such as Ruby Dugosh and Mary Free encouraged, with uncommon devotion, the talented; and today the art professors of San Antonio College, Trinity University, Incarnate Word, Our Lady of the Lake, assume an extremely influential position. The San Antonio Art Institute, under the guidance of Reginald Rowe, is still the lively, stimulating nucleus of serious work that it has been under a series of exceptional teachers and guest instructors whose own work, like Rowe's, has been exemplary. In nearby Seguin, Charles Frank Charles has established an extensive art program at Texas Lutheran College, and its ramifications have been felt strongly in the region.

Today in San Antonio there is a fertile if cryptic interchange of ideas, exhibits, and programs among the universities, galleries, museums, artists, and collectors. If the focus seems more diffuse today it may be a healthy sign for there is continual, if semi-isolated, activity, and the production of good work has not declined. Across the inevitable conflicts among volunteers and institutions and artists there prevades [[pervades]] the consolation that intense interest is a cause of conflict, that the wider the divergence of opinion the greater the expanse left for exploration and extension, and even that the less ostensibly sympathetic the audience, the stronger and more vigorous the work will be that asserts itself, indeed, that can survive.

Martha Utterback, Curator of Art 
Witte Memorial Museum


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