Digitized access to Frank Reaugh art collection allows viewers to peer beneath the frames
By Jennifer Tisdale
A new digitization project provides unprecedented access to the entire Frank Reaugh art collection at the Ransom Center.
A one-year, grant-funded project to digitize, catalog, and process the collection is complete, and the collection is accessible via the Center’s new digital collections website. The online resource includes images of the fronts and backs of 217 artworks that comprise the Frank Reaugh art collection. Viewers are able to see both framed and unframed images of the works.
During the 1930s, artist Frank Reaugh (1860–1945) earnestly sought an institution in the Southwest to preserve his artwork. In 1937, eight years before his death, he gave a portion of his private collection to The University of Texas at Austin.
Interest in Reaugh has grown steadily over the years. Today, Reaugh is considered an influential artist of his time, and his artwork is sought by private collectors and museums alike.
The works in the Reaugh collection are primarily pastel landscapes of the American Southwest, spanning the duration of his career from his early field sketches to his later large-scale works. The native Longhorn, one of Reaugh’s favorite subjects, is often present in his work. Reaugh’s life and work will be the subject of a 2015 Ransom Center exhibition and publication.
“A unique element of the Frank Reaugh project was how we decided to photograph and present each artwork as an artifact,” said Ransom Center digital collections librarian Elizabeth Gushee. “The project revealed previously unknown notes and sketches on the backs of paintings, and it also told us a lot about the materials that the artist used to create his frames. By giving this level of detail about Reaugh’s creative process, we hope to provide opportunities for scholarly interactions with the collection that have not been previously possible.”
The project also enhanced cataloging information to facilitate access to the collection, including the creation of a finding aid for the collection.
The process of removing these delicate pastels from their frames, many of which were still within their original mats and frames constructed by Reaugh, presented some challenges. Each artwork posed unique needs for handling and photographing, especially the largest pastels, some of which were nearly 50 inches in length.
The project to digitize and catalog the Frank Reaugh art collection was made possible with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Image: Library Assistant Megan Dirickson works on a project to digitize and catalog the materials of artist Frank Reaugh, including rehousing works after they have been documented. Photo by Edgar Walters.