This week, we learned a bit about Charles Franklin “Frank” Reaugh (pronounced ray), the cat outside our marketing office and also the Texan artist known for immortalizing the imagery of Texan cattle. Born in Jacksonville, Illinois in December of 1860, Frank Reaugh moved to Terrell, a town near Dallas, Texas at the age of 15. His family grew cotton, and Reaugh cultivated his love of nature on their farm. He developed his artistic skills by copying European artwork from magazines and diagrams from anatomy books, as well as by studying the work of Louis Agassiz and John Burroughs.
He’s perhaps most well-known for his landscapes, depicting the wide-open plains of Texas and often featuring longhorn cattle. He was first inspired to represent these scenes in his work after being invited on a cattle drive near Wichita Falls by cattlemen Frank and Romie Houston, who may have helped fund his artistic studies. Riding horseback with thousands of cattle nearby, Reaugh began to fall in love with the American Southwest. He would go on to make many field trips for inspiration for his paintings. From 1884-1888, he studied in St. Louis, Paris, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
After his return to the United States in 1890, he moved to Oak Cliff, a subdivision in Dallas, and opened a metal studio called “The Iron Shed” along with his father. He created his own materials and tools, including a patented folding lap easel on display at the museum, as well as a compact carrying case for pastels. He even created and marketed his own set of pastels in a hexagonal case. Reaugh created over 7000 pieces, mainly pastel sketches of the great Texas prairies and Texas Longhorn, once saying that “no animal on earth has the beauty of the Texas steer.”
In 1897, Reaugh established an art school in Dallas in 1897. He led his students on sketching expeditions across areas like New Mexico, Arizona, and West Texas. In 1900, he joined the Dallas Morning News as an art commentator. He taught briefly at Baylor University and gave lectures at Texas Christian University.
Having lived an illustrious life of artistic glory, Reaugh died in poverty in Dallas at the grand age of 84, having given away most of his possessions. Today, we know him as the “Dean of Texas Painters,” and his legacy will never be forgotten.