August 1, 2012
Lone star legend Jerry Bywaters opens the door to his office, wearing his usual coat and tie along with his checkered, houndstooth hat, reminiscent of the one former University of Alabama head football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant wore on the sidelines in the early 1970s.
Bywaters peeks around the corner and sees two newly-hired Southern Methodist University professors, Sam Ratcliffe and Ellen Buie Niewyk, sorting through his papers, which include correspondence from American artists Thomas Lea, Thomas Hart Benton and Alexandre Hogue, as well as photographs by Tina Modotti, Diego Rivera’s official photographer in the 1920s and 1930s.
“I’m afraid to come in,” Bywaters tells Ratcliffe and Niewyk, who are removing old papers from file folders for deacidification, or treatment, by a conservator.
“Why?” Niewyk says.
“I’m afraid you might deacidify me,” Bywaters says jokingly.
Bywaters, who died in 1989 at the age of 82, produced a significant body of landscape, still-life and portrait paintings, as well as lithographic prints and public murals. The Paris, Texas, native was widely considered one of the greatest interpreters of the Southwest.
More than 20 years after Bywaters’s passing, Ratcliffe and Niewyk — both neighborhood residents — remember the artist as a man with a sense of humor....