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News Release — March 30, 2010

VAQUERO: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy

Photographs by BILL WITTLIFF

New digital carbon-ink images touring with Humanities Texas
on exhibit at Texas State’s Wittliff Collections now through July 31, 2010

Exhibition reception with the artist on April 17, 2010

SAN MARCOS, Texas—Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is currently touring more than 60 of Bill Wittliff’s images from the series Vaquero: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy that have been recreated as rich carbon-ink prints. Accompanying the images are bilingual narrative texts taken from his monograph by the same name. This new exhibition makes a stop at the Alkek Library’s Wittliff Collections at Texas State University-San Marcos from March 27 through July 31, 2010. Exhibition hours are online.

The exhibition will be celebrated on April 17 with a reception with Bill Wittliff and a special talk by former Collections curator/director, Connie Todd, who will be speaking about the exhibition ¡Viva México!, which is running concurrently. Admission to the exhibitions and event is free and open to the public. Attendees are asked to RSVP to 512.245.2313 or

Humanities Texas is promoting and traveling the new Vaquero exhibition to schools, libraries, museums, and other venues throughout Texas and the United States as part of its mission to support research, education, and public programs in the humanities. Co-curated by Bill Wittliff and Carla Ellard, assistant curator of the Southwestern & Mexican Photography Collection, and made possible in part by a “We The People” grant from the NEH, Vaquero is available to rent.

When Texas moved into the cattle business, its cowboy adopted many of the Mexican vaquero’s accoutrements and centuries-old methodologies of working herds in big country. Drafted by historian Joe Frantz in the early seventies to witness one of the last traditional roundups on the vast Rancho Tule in northern Mexico, Bill Wittliff fixed the vanishing vaquero tradition forever in nearly 5,000 photographs taken over a period of three years.

In 2004, the University of Texas Press published the best of Wittliff’s series of sepia-toned darkroom prints in the monograph, Vaquero: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy. The 175-page, full-color monograph features an introduction by revered Texas author John Graves, who elegizes the loss of “vaqueros doing their beautiful, strenuous work with horses and cattle in the old, old ways. But at least they can be found here, in Billy’s lovely and meaningful photographs. We are most fortunate to have them.”

Wittliff’s Vaquero photographs have been exhibited in numerous galleries and institutions throughout this country and in Mexico, including the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, and the Texas Capitol. In Japan, they represented the United States during its bicentennial year.

Bill Wittliff, of Austin, Texas, is a distinguished photographer and writer whose photographs have been exhibited in the United States and abroad and are the subject of three books, Vaquero: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy, La Vida Brinca (UT Press: 2006), and A Book of Photographs from Lonesome Dove (UT Press: 2007). As a screenwriter and producer, his credits include The Perfect Storm, The Black Stallion, Legends of the Fall, Lonesome Dove, and others. Cofounder, with his wife, Sally, of the highly regarded Encino Press, Bill Wittliff is also a past president and Fellow of the Texas Institute of Letters, a recipient of the Texas Book Festival Bookend Award, and the Texas Medal of Arts. He is also a member of the historic Texas Philosophical Society and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. In 2008, Wittliff was asked to join the board of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D. C., and was inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame. Together the Wittliffs also founded, with the support of Texas State, the Wittliff Collections, which include the Southwestern Writers Collection and Southwestern & Mexican Photography Collection where the Vaquero photographs reside as part of the permanent holdings.

Vaquero reception with Bill Wittliff

Saturday, April 17, 7:00 pm
Alkek Library, Seventh Floor | Texas State University-San Marcos | 512.245.2313
Admission is free and open to the public.