Two current Meadows Museum exhibits on the works of Jerry Bywaters are designed to give visitors a three-dimensional portrait of the influential Dallas artist, right down to his favorite houndstooth fedora. That multifaceted view reflects the work of the two SMU researchers who curated the exhibits – both of whom have published new books on this Texas titan.
In Jerry Bywaters: Interpreter of the Southwest (Texas A&M University Press), Sam Ratcliffe provides a retrospective of Bywaters’ paintings that shows the artist’s perspective on the people of the region and their interactions with the land. “In a sense, I began writing this in 1986, when Jerry hired me to assist him with organizing his papers at SMU,” says Ratcliffe, now head of the Jerry Bywaters Special Collections Wing in the Hamon Arts Library. “Those first days in a broom closet in Fondren Library began my gradual immersion into knowledge of his career – and therefore of the sweep of the cultural history of the Southwest.”
For years, Bywaters kept notes about his printmaking in a small loose-leaf notebook. In Jerry Bywaters: Lone Star Printmaker (SMU Press), Ellen Buie Niewyk, curator of the Bywaters Special Collections in SMU’s Hamon Arts Library, worked directly from the frayed pages of the notebook to shed new light on Bywaters’ prints. The 39 prints Bywaters created from 1935 to 1948 are reproduced in the book, as well as many of his book illustrations and ephemeral works. The book also include photographs both of the artists and the subjects he depicts. “Jerry Bywaters was a true Texas artist,” Niewyk says. “His interpretations of the Texas and Southwest landscape, architecture and people mirror life during the 1930s and 1940s and still delight viewers and art collectors today.”