McKie Trotter

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McKie Trotter

 

 

 

 

McKie Trotter, III (American, 1918-1999)

McKie “Mac” Massenburg Trotter III, born in 1918, had his roots and early training in Georgia. Although he would become part of the Fort Worth school, he did not arrive in Texas until 1947, at age 29. In 1940, he graduated with a B.A. in Art and French from the College of William and Mary in Virginia. He then began graduate school at the University of Georgia, but his studies were interrupted by the War. From 1940-41, Trotter was the bugler for the Georgia National Guard before being called to active duty in 1942. His education and background helped gain him acceptance into Officer Candidate School, where he graduated in 1943. The next fall Trotter was sent to Europe as a replacement officer in the infantry. A month after he shipped out, he was captured by the Germans and held for nine months as a prisoner of war until he was freed at the end of the war by Russian troops. He returned to the United States in May 1945, grateful for his life but indelibly marked by the experience. 

In 1948, while still working on his M.F.A. at the University of Georgia, Trotter accepted a teaching position at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth. Compared to the tight literal quality of some of his prewar output, Fort Worth brought a more modern, free feel to his work. The 1950s were remarkably fruitful and successful years for Trotter. At the opening of the decade he finished his thesis, married Sandra Canning (whom he met in Texas), and dedicated himself to painting and teaching. Most significantly, during the 1950s he came fully into his own pictorial vocabulary. In 1953, he would join the faculty at Texas Christian University, where he would teach for the next thirty-five years. Surely Trotter was stimulated by the lively and experimental mood of Fort Worth’s art community. His already impressive technical skills expanded as he used new materials and methods.

In 1950, Jerry Bywaters included Trotter in the Annual Texas Painting and Sculpture Exhibition at Dallas Museum of Art. Bywaters, one of the founders of regionalism in Texas and the Director of the Dallas Museum of Art, would have become acquainted with Trotter’s work in 1948 or 1949, shortly after the younger artist began teaching at Texas Wesleyan University. Bywaters also published a major essay on Trotter for Art in America magazine. Bywaters was struck by the “intriguing psychological element” Trotter’s paintings achieved. The article included a large reproduction of Bright Peninsula, an ethereal 1953 work in casein applied with brush and rollers. Bywaters observed that Trotter achieved a kind of placeless setting in his work. He compared it to J.M.W. Turner’s “strangely lit sea-spaces” and French Symbolist painter Odilon Redon’s evocative spaces. 

Bywaters’ perceptive interpretation was published in one of the preeminent national art magazines—a major coup for the younger artist. It also indicates the degree of critical focus on the artist and his impressive exhibition record in the 1950s. Trotter began exhibiting widely in 1946, when he was in the Annual Exhibition of the Southern States Art Leagueand its exhibition of Oils and Watercolor in Atlanta. He also began submitting works to the Pepsi-Cola Annual at the National Academy of Design in New York. He exhibited less in the late 1940s (one assumes he was busy finishing his thesis and teaching), but the 1950s record is remarkable. The decade opened with local shows and the DMA’s Annual (organized by Bywaters), followed by works in the Annual Texas Watercolor Society Exhibition at the Witte Memorial Museum in San Antonio and the Texas Fine Arts Association General Exhibition in Austin (both 1951). Trotter participated in nine exhibitions in 1952, including significant national shows such as the Mid-America Annual at the Nelson Gallery in Kansas City. He was in the Texas Wildcat Exhibition in San Francisco and Texas Contemporary Artists at Knoedler in New York. There were four Texas shows in 1953. Paintings from the early fifties period illustrate why Trotter was so well received. In these years, he would break the landscape down in a variety of ways, veering back and forth between abstract passages and recognizable space. 

The middle fifties were golden years for Trotter. In 1953 he accepted a professorship at Texas Christian University. In 1954, Two Cities (1953) was selected for Younger American Painters at New York’s avant-garde Guggenheim Museum, and was illustrated in the catalogue. That same year he participated in eight other exhibitions. He exhibited ten times in 1955, both locally and nationally. 1956 was yet another momentous year as Trotter had a one-man show at Grand Central Moderns in New York. Grand Central Moderns was the “modern art” branch of a Grand Central Art Galleries. It had a high status address at 55 East 57th Street. Grand Central Moderns was dedicated—according to its advertisements—to “the finest progressive paintings and sculptures by young artists.” Trotter was singled out for praise in several reviews. One reviewer wrote that Trotter “appears at ease in both the more literal style….and in the abstract manner of Earthscape and Sky Lift.” A critic for Art News also responded favorably and sensitively to Trotter’s abstract explorations. His remarks are so germane to Trotter’s method that it is worth quoting at length: “Within his restriction of his palette to reds, oranges, yellows, greys, blacks and browns, he makes statements of the widest significance. The carefully built up surfaces are the work of a professional who understands painting space and color, and the care is not of a plodding kind. In the simplification and geometric reduction of form he realizes his stated objective of finding realism through the forms at hand in a world in which `all things are abstract,’ and graphically demonstrates this idea.” The Art News reviewer recognized Trotter as a consummate painter, matching his professional skill to his exploration of the vicissitudes of reality and abstraction.

In the mid-fifties, Trotter developed a style of near complete abstractions, often employing the “restricted” palette mentioned above as well as created a series of hallmark horizontal landscapes. For these, he rendered natural forms with a characteristic linear motif of clustered parallel lines. Phrased differently, McKie Trotter saw that nature itself contains myriad abstract realities. Trotter moved fluidly between abstraction and representation. These were not mutually exclusive poles; rather, each inflected the other. 

Trotter’s exhibition schedule was fairly strong in the 1960s, and then it drops off significantly in the 1970s and after, yet he continued teaching. He died in Fort Worth in 1999, at age 81.

Trotter’s works are included in the permanent collections of the following museum and university collections: Blanton Museum of Art, Austin; Dallas Museum of Art; Murray State College; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; Old Jail Art Center, Albany, Texas; and Texas Christian University.

 

Selected Biographical and Career Highlights

·       1918 Born in Manchester, Georgia

·       1940 BA, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia

·       1943-45 Served in U.S. Army, Infantry Captain and P.O.W.

·       1950 MFA, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

·       1948-53 Instructor and Professor, Texas Wesleyan College, Fort Worth, Texas

·       1953-88 Professor of Art, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas

·       1999 Died in Fort Worth, Texas

Selected Prizes, Awards

·       Texas Watercolor Society: Cash Prize 1953

·       Texas Fine Arts Association: Cash Prize 1953

·       Texas General: Purchase Prize 1953, 1958

·       Southwestern Prints and Drawings: Purchase Prize 1958

Selected Exhibitions

·       1946 Annual Exhibition of the Southern States Art League, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia

·       1946 First Southeastern Annual Exhibition of Oils and Watercolor, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia

·       1946 Third Annual Paintings of the Year (Pepsi Cola) Competition, National Academy of Design, New York, New York

·       1947 Five Southern Colleges, Student Art Exhibition, Mary Baldwin College, Staunton, Virginia

·       1948 Virginia Intermont

·       1949-53 Fort Worth Local Artists Exhibition, Fort Worth Art Association Gallery, Public Library, Fort Worth, Texas 

·       1950 Annual Jury Exhibition, Watercolor Society of Alabama

·       1950 12th Annual Exhibition of Texas Painting and Sculpture 1950-1951, circulated: Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; Witte Museum, San Antonio; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas

·       1950 Mecoy Hall Gallery Opening, Murray State College

·       1951 Texas Watercolor Society 2nd Annual Exhibition, Witte Museum, San Antonio, Texas

·       1951-53 General Exhibition, Texas Fine Arts Association, Austin, Texas

·       1952 One Sculptor, Three Painters, Fort Worth Art Center, Fort Worth, Texas

·       1952 Sixteen Texas Painters, Betty McLean Gallery, Dallas, Texas

·       1952 Mid-American Annual, William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, Kansas City, Kansas

·       1952 Texas Contemporary Artists, M. Knoedler & Company, New York, New York; Contemporary Art Museum, Houston, Texas (catalogue)

·       1952 Texas Wildcat Exhibition, San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, California

·       1952 14th Annual Exhibition of Texas Painting and Sculpture 1952, circulated: Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Witte Museum, San Antonio; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas

·       1953 Texas Watercolor Society 4th Annual Exhibition, Witte Museum, San Antonio, Texas, selection circulated: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; Texas A&M University, College Station; Texas A&I College, Kingsville; Centennial Museum, Corpus Christi, Texas (purchase prize)

·       1953 15th Annual Exhibition of Texas Painting and Sculpture 1953, circulated: Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Witte Museum, San Antonio, Texas cash prize)

·       1953 Texas Fine Arts Festival, Coliseum, Austin, Texas

·       1954 16th Annual Exhibition of Texas Painting and Sculpture 1954, circulated: Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; Witte Museum, San Antonio; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Fort Worth Art Center, Fort Worth, Texas

·       1954 Fort Worth Local Artists Exhibition, Fort Worth Art Center, Fort Worth, Texas

·       1954 Seventeen Years: An Exhibition of the First Prize Winners in Painting, Drawing, Printmaking, and Sculpture in the 17 Annual Exhibitions of Work by Fort Worth Artists Held by the Fort Worth Art Association, Fort Worth Art Center, Fort Worth, Texas (catalogue)

·       1954, 1955 Annual Exhibition of Western Art, Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado

·       1954 Texas Watercolor Society 5th Annual Exhibition, Witte Museum, San Antonio, Texas; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas

·       1954 Former Student Show, La Grange College, La Grange, Texas

·       1954 McKie Trotter, Fort Worth Art Center, Fort Worth, Texas

·       1954 Younger American Painters, Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York

·       1955 The World Around Us: 100 Years of American Landscape, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas

·       1955 17th Annual Exhibition of Texas Painting and Sculpture 1955-1956, circulated: Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; Fort Worth Art Center, Fort Worth; Witte Museum, San Antonio; Texas Fine Arts Association, Austin, Texas

·       1955 Annual Exhibition for Artists of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, Fort Worth Art Center, Fort Worth

·       1955 Texas Watercolor Society 6th Annual Exhibition, Witte Museum, San Antonio, Texas

·       1955 Annual Mid-Year Show, Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio

·       1955 Artists West of the Mississippi, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado

·       1955 The Artist-Teacher Today: U.S.A., College at Oswego, New York

·       1955 Annual Spring Exhibition, Delgado Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana

·       1956 Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture by Tarrant County Artists, Fort Worth Art Center, Fort Worth, Texcas

·       1956 Annual Spring Exhibition, Delgado Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana

·       1956 6th Southwestern Exhibition of Prints and Drawings, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas, traveled to: Centenary College, Shreveport, Louisiana; Elisabet Ney Museum, Austin, Texas; University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; Texas Tech College Museum, Lubbock; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; University of Tulsa, Oklahoma; Oklahoma A&M College, Stillwater

·       1956 18th Annual Texas Painting and Sculpture Exhibition 1956-1957, circulated: Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; Witte Museum, San Antonio; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Texas Fine Arts Association, Austin; Museum, Texas Tech, Lubbock, Texas

·       1956 Texas Watercolor Society 7th Annual Exhibition, Witte Museum, San Antonio, Texas

·       1956 Gulf-Caribbean Art Exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, traveled to: Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica; Carnegie Institute, Pittsburg; Colorado Springs Fine Art Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado (catalogue)

·       1956 McKie Trotter, Grand Central Moderns, New York, New York

·       1956 Mary Washington Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia

·       1956 Cotton, Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, Alabama

·       1957 Texas Fine Arts Association Annual Spring Jury Exhibition, Laguna Gloria Museum, Austin, Texas

·       1957 Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture by Tarrant County Artists, Fort Worth Art Center, Fort Worth, Texas

·       1957 First Columbia Painting Biennial, Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, South Carolina

·       1957 Survey of Painting in Texas, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas, circulated by American Federation of Arts (catalogue)

·       1957 Annual Autumn Exhibition, Delgado Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana

·       1958 McKie Trotter, Men-of-Art Guild, Guild Gallery, Dallas, Texas

·       1958 The Iron Horse in Art, Fort Worth Art Center, Fort Worth, Texas

·       1958 20th Annual Texas Painting and Sculpture Exhibition 1958-1959, circulated: Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; Witte Museum, San Antonio; TFAA, Laguna Gloria Gallery, Austin; Beaumont Art Museum, Beaumont; San Angelo Art Club, San Angelo; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas (purchase prize)

·       1958 8th Southwestern Exhibition of Prints and Drawings, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas (purchase prize)

·       1958 Texas Oil ’58, A Salute to the Oil Industry of the State by Texas Painters, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, traveled to: Bank of the Southwest, Houston; Dallas Public Library, Dallas; Republic National Bank of Dallas, Texas (catalogue)

·       1958 Texas Fine Arts Association Circuit Exhibition, selected from works shown at the Association’s annual meeting, circulated to numerous venues

·       1959 Made in Texas by Texans, Dallas Museum of Contemporary Art, Sheraton-Dallas Hotel, Dallas, Texas (catalogue)

·       1959 9th Southwestern Exhibition of Prints and Drawings, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas

·       1959 Texas Watercolor Society 10th Annual Exhibition, Witte Museum, San Antonio, Texas; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas

·       1959 1st Annual Southwest American Painting Exhibition, Oklahoma Art Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

·       1959 Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture by Tarrant County Artists, Fort Worth Art Center, Fort Worth, Texas

·       1959 Southwestern Artists Biennial Exhibition, New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico

·       1959 McKie Trotter, Junior Service League of Houston, Texas

·       1960 Southwestern Art: A Sampling of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas

·       1960 Painting: McKie Trotter, Sculpture: Charles Williams, Fifth Avenue Gallery, Fort Worth, Texas

·       1960 Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture by Tarrant County Artists, Fort Worth Art Center, Fort Worth, Texas

·       1960 Annual Exhibition of Western Art, Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado

·       1961 Annual Exhibition for Artists of Fort Worth, Fort Worth Art Center, Fort Worth, Texas

·       1962 24th Annual Texas Painting and Sculpture Exhibition 1962-1963, circulated: Witte Museum, San Antonio; Centennial Art Museum, Corpus Christi; Beaumont Art Museum, Beaumont; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas

·       1963, 1964, 1966, 1967 Annual Exhibition for Artists of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, Fort Worth Art Center, Fort Worth, Texas

·       1963 Annual Invitational Painting Exhibition, Junior Service League of Longview, Nicholson Memorial Library, Longview, Texas

·       1967 Annual Tarrant County Show, Fort Worth Art Center, Fort Worth, Texas

·       1968 Annual Invitational Painting Exhibition, Junior Service League of Longview, Nicholson Memorial Library, Longview, Texas

·       1968 Texas Painting and Sculpture 1968, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas

·       1969 Exhibition by Artists of TCU and Fort Worth, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas

·       1969 Annual Invitational Painting Exhibition, Junior Service League of Longview, Nicholson Memorial Library, Longview, Texas

·       1971–72 Texas Painting and Sculpture: The 20th Century, Pollack Galleries, Owen Arts Center, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, traveled to: Witte Confluence Museum, HemisFair Plaza, San Antonio; University Art Museum, University of Texas at Austin; Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth; The Museum, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas (catalogue)

·       1981 TCU Faculty Exhibition, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas

·       1986 Beyond Regionalism: The Fort Worth School (1945-1955), Old Jail Art Center, Albany, Texas

·       1992 Prints of the Fort Worth Circle 1940-1960, Huntington Gallery, University of Texas at Austin, Texas

·       2001 First Light: Local Art and the Fort Worth Public Library 1901–1961 . . . A Centennial Exhibit, Fort Worth Central Library, Fort Worth, Texas (catalogue)

·       2005 Celebrating Early Texas Art: Treasures from Dallas-Fort Worth Private Collections, 1900-1960, Fort Worth Community Center, Fort Worth, Texas (catalogue)

·       2007 Texas Modern: The Rediscovery of Early Texas Abstraction (1935-1965), Martin Museum of Art, Baylor University, Waco, Texas (catalogue)

·       2008 McKie Trotter: Back Again at Last, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas (catalogue)

·       2009 Painting West Texas: 35 Artists/100 Years, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas (catalogue)

·       2009 Back to the Future: Elements of “Modern” in Mid-Century Texas Art, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

·       2009 A Texas Sampler: Vintage Paintings by Thirty Texas Artists, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

·       2009 Texas Paper: Watercolors, Pastels and Drawings from the Lone Star State, 1938-2008, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

·       2009-10 Texas Art Seen, Grace Museum, Abilene, Texas

·       2010 Water Rites: Rivers, Lakes, and Streams in Texas Art, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

·       2010 The Presence of Light: Sky and Light in the Texas Landscape, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

·       2010 Texas Collages: A Tribute to Kurt Schwitters, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

·       2011 Trotter & Luce: Expanding the Boundaries of Texas Abstraction, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

·       2011 Lone Star Modernism: A Celebration of Mid-Century Texas Art, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

·       2011 Breakthrough: Sixty Years of Texas Abstraction, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

·       2012 A Survey of Texas Modernists, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

·       2012 Texas Expressionism, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

·       2013 Rhythms of Modernism, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

·       2014 Regional Connotations: Two Modernists in Cowtown—Works on Paper by Cynthia Brants & Paintings by McKie Trotter, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

·       2014 A New Visual Vocabulary: Developments in Texas Modernism 1935-1965, One Allen Center, Lobby Gallery, Houston, Texas

·       2014 Lone Star Masters of Modernism, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

·       2015 The Reductive Landscape: Paintings & Drawings by Jack Boynton and McKie Trotter, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

·       2018 McKie Trotter III: SCAPES, Moudy Gallery, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas

Selected Public Collections

  • Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas
  • Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas
  • Heinz Corporation, Houston, Texas
  • Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas 
  • Murray State College, Tishomingo, Oklahoma
  • Old Jail Art Center, Albany, Texas
  • Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas
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