West Texas Landscape
Harry Carnohan ( American, 1904 - 1969 )
Arguably Harry Carnohan’s most celebrated work, West Texas Landscape depicts an isolated, barren wasteland. While seemingly uninhabited, the scene’s elements of desertion and emptiness do hint at a once lively human presence. Discarded objects flank a pair of tire tracks leading to a fence whose wire railing has uncoiled from its posts. Small sprouts, carefully lined up, cast prominent shadows on the dry, clay soil—hopeful indications of growth and rebirth amid the arid landscape, or dismal symbols of Depression-era realism.
Carnohan favored modern styles and trends more than his Dallas Nine contemporaries and remained an active art critic, theorizing and discussing the influence of modernism on regional painting as a featured contributor to the Dallas Journal. The source for his surrealist preference is unquestioned. The artist lived and worked in Paris during the second half of the 1920s, where he was undoubtedly influenced by all facets of European modernism. Painted upon his return to Dallas, this desolate, eerie scene is the culmination of lessons abroad, vistas from home, and the realist style he perfected. On this painting Jerry Bywaters commented: “We find he has actually achieved West Texas in an art form while most other painters seem to be bringing us only the incidental complexion of a landscape.”
Erin Pinon, Early Texas Art Research Associate, DMA label copy (1935.2), June 2016
- West Texas Landscape was well received by critics and patrons alike, winning a Purchase Prize at the Seventh Annual Allied Arts Exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art (then known as the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts) in 1935, and praised a year later at its inclusion in the Texas Centennial Exposition and Art Exhibition (1936).