“People talk about Paris in the spring. But all I can think of is East Texas. I say the hell with spring in Paris. Give me Mineola in the fall.” So proclaimed Reveau Bassett in 1977, at 79 years old, his candor - and general existence - bemusing the D Magazine reporter who had been dispatched to investigate rumors of the artist’s death.
Reveau Bassett (1897-1981) had always exemplified this Regionalist spirit. He was born, lived, and would eventually pass, in the same beloved place: Dallas, Texas. While many artists who came of age with Bassett accepted the conventional wisdom that all quality art came from Europe, Bassett couldn’t disagree more - perhaps because he came of age so young.
Bassett daringly dropped out of school in the 9th grade to devote his energies to the outdoors: he hunted, fished, explored, and - most importantly - sketched. Fortuitously, he fell under the early mentorship of already-established artist Frank Reaugh, and became a naturalist prodigy. By the age of 28, Bassett had two artworks chosen for a National Academy of Design exhibition, a coup which mentor Reaugh proudly explained was “tantamount to arriving.”
For the next five decades, Bassett would continue to translate the Dallas region’s temporal beauty - the soft peach of spring, the gritty grey-purple of winter - into timeless art. He became known, in particular, for his superb depictions of waterfowl in flight.
Bassett also became known for forwarding the cause of his fellow Texan-artists. For example, in the mid-1930s, the federal government preemptively tapped two California artists to create murals for the new Dallas Federal Parcel Post Building. Bassett and other prominent members of the North Texas art scene vigorously protested this tacit dismissal of Texans’ worthiness. They petitioned DC, and eventually won the chance to compete for the commission. Over the rest of his long life, Bassett would continue to sound the alarm whenever the art world at-large dared to discount Texas.
No, Bassett confirmed to that inquiring reporter, he had not died. He was still doggedly painting away, despite having lost vision in one eye and stability in both hands. And, though it meant rigging a wire to his brush and enlisting the help of his steadier-handed wife, Virginia, Bassett would never give up his art. Nor would he give up championing his homeland.