Cypress Fen


William Lester ( American, 1910 - 1991 )

c. 1940
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General Description

Regionalist painter William Lester developed an iconography of the Southwest that reached far beyond simple observation of nature. Rejecting impressionistic interpretations of Texas’ landscape, filled with rolling hills of bluebonnets and restrained to a pastel palette, Lester’s landscapes are instead at the stylistic crossroads of surrealism, expressionism, abstraction and regionalism.

In this less idyllic rendering of the Panhandle Canyonlands, Lester paints a small watering hole nestled within a clearing of eroded land. The viewer witnesses the eerie scene, filled with a haunting sense of emptiness, echoed in the hollowed tree and eroded soil. In the sky, a looming cloud floats above. Its size and shape are mirrored in the rippled pool below, while the glossy sheen of the water juxtaposes the flat, surreal clouds. Cypress Fen captures a critical moment in Lester’s career, on the brink of wholly non-objective, abstract painting, which would characterize the artist’s work for the remainder of his career.

Excerpt from

Erin Pinon, Early Texas Art Research Associate, DMA label copy (1940.17), June 2016.

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