Artists & Designers

Michael G. Owen (1915-1976)

A native to the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, Michael G. Owen, graduated from Highland Park High School and then trained at the Dallas Art Institute where his teachers included Olin Travis and Jerry Bywaters. In the 1930s, Owen served as a painter for the Civilian Conservation Corps (at Garner State Park in Uvalde, TX), assisted in the sculptures for the Texas Centennial Esplanade of State, sailed the Caribbean as a deckhand, and was a designer at Southern Potteries in Dallas.

His most famous work, a portrait of the black folksinger Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, was modeled in clay during a single sitting in Leadbelly's New York City apartment, where the old musician strummed the guitar and sang the songs that had made him famous in the South. The 1943 sculpture is Owen's best-known work, and his later career received minimal acclaim. By 1950, he moved to the Pacific Northwest to live with his family. After a severe illness caused muscular and vision deterioration, Owen eventually died without ever having attended the recognition that much of his early Texas work deserves.

Adapted from

  • William Keyse Rudolph, DMA Label copy (1950.91), May 2006.

  • Rick Stewart, Lone Star Regionalism: The Dallas Nine and Their Circle (Dallas Museum of Art, 1985), 183-184.