The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University acquired three contiguous, 28’ x 6’ panels once part of a 280’ x 6’ oil-on-canvas mural painted in 1951 by Texas artist James Buchanan “Buck” Winn. Commissioned for the Pearl Brewery in San Antonio, the mural depicts the story of cattle ranching in the Southwest, from its earliest open range days, through the fencing of the range and the arrival of the railroad.
The Wittliff wishes to bring the mural back to life to promote greater awareness of our cultural heritage and to further understanding and appreciation of public art and its historical significance. While the mural is in basically good condition, hanging it again without significant conservation work would cause greater harm and we risk losing the painting altogether.
About the Mural
Considered the largest mural in the world at the time of its creation, the 1951 cattle ranching painting hung in the brewery until the early 1970s when it was removed from the walls, cut into various size panels, and stashed in a closet. The mural sustained damage as a result of mishandling during its removal from the walls and from the way in which it was folded, paint side in, and stored without the internal support of tubing. Deep scratches, abrasions, and crimping have resulted in a severely marred surface, and cuts—some three to six inches in length—have significantly weakened areas of the canvas support.
Forgotten for more than 25 years, the mural was re-discovered by a Winn enthusiast. Pearl Brewery donated the panels (there were 11 in various sizes) to the Wimberley Institute of Cultures, in Winn’s hometown and all were brought to the Wittliff Collections to begin basic preservation work. The Wimberley Institute gifted two of the panels to the Wittliff and the third was purchased.
To date, the Wittliff has signed a contract with a professional conservator in Santa Barbara, California, and the three mural panels were sent there in August of 2012 to begin the work, which should be completed in approximately six to eight months.
Once restored the mural will serve as a central piece of public art for the Texas State campus, the city of San Marcos, and the region at- large. The plan is to display the mural on the main floor of the university library, situated in the way it was meant to be seen—high up and at a distance from the viewer—to inspire, educate, and enhance the quality of life of thousands of students and visitors each year.
About Buck Winn
Like Jerry Bywaters and Tom Lea, Buck Winn (1905-1979) was an artist whose works captured the very spirit of the Southwest and serve as testaments to the region’s cultural and historical evolution. Winn was an internationally recognized painter, sculptor, inventor, muralist, and architectural artist, but despite his notable reputation, relatively little has been written about him. His place as one of the most accomplished and prolific muralists in Texas art history has been somewhat obscured given he did not participate in the much-publicized WPA Post Office mural projects, and that in later years he turned his attention more towards architectural innovations.
Winn was included in the 1932 exhibition of young Dallas painters at the Dallas Public Art Gallery with contemporaries Jerry Bywaters, Otis Dozier, Everett Spruce, and Lloyd Goff, the exhibition that created the original Dallas Nine. While in Dallas Winn lived with an entourage of bohemians who were called the “Pearl Street Gang” that included legendary architects O’Neil Ford and David Williams, writer Horace McCoy (They Shoot Horses Don’t They?), and cartoonist Ed Reed.
For the 1936 Texas Centennial and World’s Fair in Dallas Winn was selected to work with Eugene Savage and others to create murals in the Hall of State at Fair Park depicting the history of the state and its industrial, cultural, and agricultural progress. In 1935 Winn painted a mural at the Highland Park Theatre in Dallas telling the story of LaSalle arriving on the Texas Coast, and in 1946 Winn designed the United States three-cent postage stamp commemorating Texas statehood. In all, Winn completed more than 50 projects, many of which were the first of their kind in material usage and size.
Winn’s works can still be found in bank buildings, libraries, theaters, and university campuses throughout the region, although a substantial portion of his large public works have been lost as buildings were razed for new development.
IF YOU ARE INTERSTED IN SUPPORTING THE WINN MURAL RESTORATION PROJECT, please contact David Coleman at 512.245.2313 or email firstname.lastname@example.org