Mr. Reaugh

By his long, long thoughts, his careful planning, and his perfectly functioning ingenuity, he helped Dallas develop from a gauche country town to the cultural center it has become. Frank Reaugh did this quietly, without fanfare, in his own inimitable way.

— Alice Bab Stroud & Modena Stroud Dailey, Co-authors

In 1876, Reaugh’s parents loaded young Frank and his adopted sister Mary in a wagon and ventured south from Morgan County, Illinois to Kaufman County, Texas.  Settling near Terrell, Reaugh took to the warmer temperatures and was enamored by the very fine grass and meandering longhorns.

Not fond of farming, he taught math and grammar to the local school children earning enough for a train ticket to the halls and galleries of St. Louis, Chicago, and New York.  Reaugh never felt that he had “developed much color sense” until he had visited these masterpieces.  Before, Reaugh copied a great deal of art from the European masters from magazines and large-animal anatomy books and since, as he states, “I had not learned to make colors yet,” his earlier works are grisaille, meaning “gray tones.”

Without formal art training and very little money, Reaugh sold some of his work to pay for night classes at the Saint Louis School of Fine Arts (1884-1885) and later, the Academie Julian in Paris (1888-1889).  In 1889, Reaugh returned from his studies with a clearer vision of his calling.

Leaving Terrell, he and his family moved to Oak Cliff, Texas, south of Dallas, and built his first studio “The Ironshed,” which quickly became a beacon for art lovers and students alike.  For decades, Reaugh gave private lessons and taught in public schools to students who showed promise and purpose.

His classes soon gave way to memorable, summer sketching trips spanning over more than 30 years.  First by mule, horse and wagon, and later by automobile, the travel into the Texas Panhandle and beyond was relentless, yet his students were honored to experience these lessons of a lifetime.

Reaugh’s protégés included Alexandre Hogue, John Douglass, Perry Nichols Josephine Oliver, Louis Oscar Griffith, Reveau Bassett and Lucretia Donnell Coke;  some would become synonymous with Lone Star Regionalism and the Dallas Nine—a group of young artists in the 1930s that gained notoriety for turning away from European trends and looking to the land and people of the Southwest for inspiration.

Reaugh built his second studio, “El Sibil” (The Vault), in 1929 with a storage vault for his paintings, classrooms, studio and performance space for special showings that he personally orchestrated, combining artwork with prose narration, music, and staged lighting.

Throughout his career, Reaugh continually promoted the arts in Dallas by bringing in exhibits, sometimes at his own expense.  As the Director of the Art Department of the State Fair of Texas for five years, Reaugh borrowed and brought some of the earliest collections of artwork from other institutions across the country to Dallas. His donation of the first painting to the Dallas Art Association gave birth to what is known today as the Dallas Museum of Art.  His educational and social organizations like The Dallas School of Fine Arts, the Frank Reaugh Art Club, and the Striginian Club for young ladies created a deeper appreciation for nature’s design and its relevance to Texas art.

Reaugh as an inventor, created a number of artistic tools, such as, a folding lap easel, special coated art paper, blended pastels to match the native flora, and a compact carrying case for pastels.  He also invented a number of industrial items such as a cooling mechanism for internal combustion engines and the Limacon Pump, a rotary pump for water, which still carries a U.S. patent.

In spite of his many accomplishments, Reaugh was hospitalized in Dallas as a ward of the city and soon after, passed away in 1945.  Reaugh’s artwork would eventually find a permanent home in the public collections at The University of Texas at Austin, Texas Tech University in Lubbock, and Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas.