Critic’s choice: Early Fort Worth fringe artists
Dickson Reeder, Bror Utter, Blanche McVeigh, Kelly Fearing, Cynthia Brants, and other artists of the hallowed Fort Worth Circle get most of the attention as cutting-edge Modernists during the 1940s and ’50s. But artists on the Circle’s fringes are being recognized more than ever these days by local collectors, gallery owners, and auctioneers. Olive Pemberton is 87 and no longer painting, but collectors see in her work the boldness that made the local art scene of that era so special. They also admire the Mexican-tinged works of Pemberton’s sister and fellow painter, Jan Holmes, who died on Sept. 10. Don Deardorff, 81, continues painting in his abstract style at his Westside home. Deceased painters such as Josephine Mahaffey continue to grow in popularity; her watercolors are plentiful. Paintings by TCU grad and former art faculty member Dwight C. Holmes sold for a few hundred dollars apiece not long ago – collector Morris Matson recalls seeing them on eBay in that price range as recently as 2002 – but they’ve jumped to five or 10 times that amount since then. Beatrice Dunning spent a lifetime teaching art in Fort Worth public schools, and her paintings are rising in value. Lirl Treuter headed the art reference department at the Fort Worth Public Library for years, studied under Fearing, and produced meticulous abstract images that are as stunning as her mentor’s best stuff. Demand for Circle artists has been pushing prices higher, prompting collectors to discover others from the same time period who, in many cases, were fine, academically trained artists associated with the Circle but who somehow didn’t attract the same following … until now.