Salinas, Gentilz, Mount Rushmore creator Borglum all represented
You don’t often think of San Antonio’s Witte Museum as an art gallery, but the new Robert and Helen Kleberg South Texas Heritage Center, which opens Saturday in the completely reconstructed Pioneer Hall contains some of the most noteworthy paintings of life in south Texas from the 1850s through the 1950s, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Called “Art from a Vivid and Wild Land,” the exhibition contains art work from some of the most noteworthy Texas artists of the last 150 years. They include William Samuel, whose precise still lifes of Main Plaza in the 1850s remain the most endearing portrait of life in San Antonio in the years between the Mexican and Civil Wars, to Gutzon Borglum, who was working in San Antonio when he began the monumental Mount Rushmore sculptures.
“I think this is the Witte as people have never seen us before, but as we have always had the potential to be,” said Amy Fulkerson, the Curator of Collections at the Witte.
The Heritage Center also contains works by the noted Alsatian artist Theodore Gentilz,” who was among the party led by Henri Castro that founded Castroville and who became the first art instructor at St. Mary’s College.
But perhaps the most striking work of art in the Center is a 168 foot long mural which combines nine paintings by the noted Twentieth Century landscape artist Porfirio Salinas, who gained international fame in the 1960s when his works were displayed in the White House by his friends Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson.
Fulkerson says the mural was created by expertly blending the nine paintings into one, which involved precise digital imagery to make sure that the paintings flowed together into one tableau which depicts life in south Texas in the 19th century.
“It actually wraps around the entire gallery space, and you feel you are actually out there in the environment,” she said.
Ironically Salinas learned to draw while drawing at the Witte as a young man.
The art helps visitors who come to the Witte to see the artifacts from the 19th and early 20th century be able to imagine what it was like to use the artifacts in daily life, and see how the items were used at the time.
“We have our cactus flowers, our bluebonnets, and all of those great images, our cowboys are represented, the Missions,” she said.
The Center itself is a work of art. The architects masterfully blended Pioneer Hall, which is designated as an historic structure with its magnificent wood-painted concrete ceiling beams, with the new open new structure, with walls of huge windows looking out to the San Antonio River and Brackenridge Park.
The new South Texas Heritage Center opens to the general public on Saturday.