Edgar B. Davis
Texas Art and a Wildcatter's Dream by William E. Reaves
This definitive book by Dr. Bill Reaves tells the whole fascinating story. Philanthropist and eccentric oil wildcatter, Edgar B. Davis, worked with the San Antonio Art League to initiate a national art competition, offering substantial cash prizes. This Texas Wildflower Competitive Exhibition would go on to attract many prominent artists, and is credited with nurturing the state's emerging art community, as well as fueling a major regional movement. Some of the competition's best works are represented in this book, as well as commentary and historical perspective.
How did the San Antonio Art League's Davis Collection of early Texas art come about?
The Texas Wildflower Competitive Exhibitions were the dream of the eccentric oilman Edgar B. Davis (1873-1951). These competitive shows of paintings of wildflowers and Texas life were managed by the San Antonio Art League from 1927 to 1929. Held at the newly opened Witte Museum each spring, the exhibition featured large cash prizes donated by Davis, which were an inducement for artists to travel from all over the United States to paint in the Hill Country of Texas.
The “Davis Competitions,” as they were known, helped to cement San Antonio’s reputation as an art center, a legacy that remains with the “river city” today. The shows generated a great deal of excitement in the area, helping to make celebrities of the some of the artists who had already settled there and encouraging others to make San Antonio their home.
Over the three years that the wildflower competitions were held, more than 300 paintings were exhibited, and thousands of viewers saw the paintings at the Witte Museum and on tours throughout the state and in New York. Each year Davis would generously purchase the winning paintings and then donate them to the San Antonio Art League.
Unfortunately, eventually Davis put his money to work elsewhere, bringing to an end the wildflower events, but only after they had inspired many aspiring painters and had helped to make wildflower paintings one of the most sought-after subject for traditionalist Texas collectors.