About the Artist
Artist Biography from "Everett Spruce artwork and papers" from the Jerry Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University
Everett Franklin Spruce was born on December 25, 1907 (some sources list 1908) in Holland, Arkansas, the oldest of six children, to William Everett Spruce and his wife, Fanny May. In 1911 his father moved the family to Adams Mountain in Pope County and later to Mulberry where Spruce graduated high school in 1925. During these early years Spruce was influenced by both the rugged countryside in the foothills of the Ozarks and his father’s occupation of farming. This rural setting provided the young Spruce with ideas for sketching which caught the attention of family members. Word of his artistic talent reached Kathryn and Olin Travis who established a summer painting school in the Ozark Mountains in 1926. Impressed with Spruce’s work, Olin Travis offered him a scholarship at his newly formed Dallas Art Institute (DAI). Spruce moved to Dallas and studied at the DAI from 1926 – 1929 with Travis and another Texas artist, Thomas M. Stell, Jr. Spruce met another art student at the DAI, Alice Virginia Kramer, whom he later married in 1934, and together they exhibited their work in Dallas and participated in the Travis Ozark Summer Art School.
The 1930s proved to be a productive period for Spruce. In 1931 he took a position as gallery assistant at the Free Public Art Gallery, later (1933) renamed the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, and was promoted to registrar when the museum opened its doors at its new location in Fair Park in 1936 in time for the Texas Centennial celebration. In 1932 Spruce exhibited with eight other Texas artists at the Dallas Public Art Gallery in the Exhibition of Young Dallas Painters (All young men under thirty years of age). A half-century later, scholars and art collectors began to employ this exhibition’s title as a general term to identify these and other Dallas artists of that period having a regionalist aesthetic as "The Dallas Nine." Always inspired by his early influence of the Ozark Mountains and the austerity of Texas landscapes, Spruce continued to use everyday scenes in his work that soon began to gain national attention during the 1930s with the inclusion of his paintings in exhibitions across the nation including the Kansas City Art Institute (Kansas City, Missouri), the Rockefeller Center (New York, New York), the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, New York), the Palace of Fine Arts (San Francisco, California), and the New York World’s Fair Exhibition (New York, New York).
In 1940 Spruce joined the art faculty at the University of Texas at Austin where he began as an instructor in life drawing and creative design. From 1949 – 1951 Spruce served as Chairman of the Department of Art and in 1954 he became Professor of Art. In 1958 Spruce was the first artist featured in the Blaffer Series on Texas Art, published by the University of Texas Press. The portfolio, entitled A Portfolio of Eight Paintings, includes "Everett Spruce: an Appreciation" by Jerry Bywaters, then director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. In 1974 Spruce retired from the art department as professor emeritus yet continued to paint until he was 88 years old. Spruce died in Austin in 2002 at the age of 94, survived by his twin daughters and two sons. Spruce’s legacy continues today through the countless number of students he influenced during his tenure at the University of Texas at Austin. In addition, his work is now part of permanent collections at the Dallas Museum of Art, the Blanton Museum of Art (University of Texas at Austin), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Museum of Modern Art (New York), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York).
Aikman, W. Russ. "Everett Franklin Spruce (1907 – 2008)." The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=3341 (accessed March 25, 2009).
Carraro, Betty Francine. Painters of the Southwest Landscape: Otis Dozier, William Lester, Everett Spruce. MFA Thesis, Southern Methodist University, 1976.