This piece originally appeared in Central University Libraries 2013-2014 Annual Report.
Included in the recent gift was this sketch for his print, The Surgeons, held in the Jerry Bywaters Special Collections.
More than 250 drawings by Jerry Bywaters ’27 – a
gift from his granddaughters to the Jerry Bywaters Special Collections
housed in Hamon Arts Library – provide insight into the renowned
artist’s creative process.
Katie Cummings of Houston and Leigh Swanson of Orlando, Florida
presented the works of art to SMU in December 2013. “We are thrilled to
be working with the third generation of the Bywaters family,” says
Ellen Buie Niewyk ‘78, curator of the collections.
Several drawings are from the 1920s, when Bywaters was beginning
his formal art training in Europe with SMU instructor Ralph Rountree,
explains Sam Ratcliffe ’74, head of the Bywaters Special Collections.
“One drawing he made in Paris, France, during this period sheds
light on items in the artist’s papers that have been housed at SMU for
nearly 30 years,” Ratcliffe says. “For example, his papers hold a
receipt from the Hotel Imperator, where Bywaters stayed while visiting
Paris, and a self-portrait in this recent gift is inscribed with the
name of the same hotel.”
Many of the drawings depict subjects familiar to individuals
acquainted with the artist’s work, Niewyk says. These include sketches
of ranches and rural scenes in Colorado and Texas, e.g., the famous
Kokernot Ranch in the trans-Pecos region; small towns, such as Terlingua
and Alpine; and preliminary sketches for the public library mural he
painted in his hometown of Paris, Texas
Other works are preliminary sketches for two of his lithographs – False Fronts(1939) and The Surgeons(1940).
Even more unexpected are scenes of Virginia, Tennessee, St.
Louis and Philadelphia, says Ratcliffe. “In all of these, Bywaters
picked out elements specific to each area that made it distinctive,” he
says. “Also present is how Bywaters could find inspiration from
everyday objects, such as in his drawing of a Singer sewing machine on a
Bywaters’ friendship with other artists is reflected in portrait
sketches of Rountree, sculptor William Zorach and Adolph Dehn. “The
latter drawing also has the touch of whimsy that sometimes
characterized Bywaters’ portraits, depicting Dehn teaching a class in
watercolor painting,” explains Ratcliffe.
“All in all, the drawings indicate the breadth of Bywaters’
artistic interests and also document the research activity that went
into his work.”