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Know this building?


by Jerome Weeks 4 Mar 2008

Land Title Block, watercolor by Bror Utter ________________________________ You’ve probably seen it a hundred times, but familiar landmarks take on a different resonance — at different times, through different artist’s viewpoints. They gain detail and depth. This Saturday, historian and author Quentin McGown is presenting a free lecture, “Architectural History Preserved Through the Artist’s Eye: A […]

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Land Title Block, watercolor by Bror Utter
________________________________

You’ve probably seen it a hundred times, but familiar landmarks take on a different resonance — at different times, through different artist’s viewpoints. They gain detail and depth.

This Saturday, historian and author Quentin McGown is presenting a free lecture, “Architectural History Preserved Through the Artist’s Eye: A Study of Bror Utter’s 1957 Fort Worth Landmarks Suite” at the Amon Carter Museum at 11 a.m. It’s the same day the museum opens the exhibition, Fort Worth Landmarks in the 1950s: Watercolors by Bror Utter.

The exhibition includes 17 paintings of some of Fort Worth’s iconic structures, including the Knights of Pythias Hall and the Old Post Office. The Victorian-era building shown above — located at Fourth and Commerce —  began life as the Land Mortgage Bank, but by the time Bror Utter painted it, it was home to a popular downtown cafe.

Which is much like what it remains: You may know it as the Flying Saucer Emporium.

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  • (The Flying Saucer “Draught” Emporium.) There actually is a wealth of painterly documentation of Fort Worth’s protean cityscape, dating all the way back to, well, Utter’s time (circa the 1950s). Don’t ask me why …

  • Perhaps because there are a decent number of older buildings that have been preserved by luck or by folly — Victorian-era, red-brick buildings like the Emporium, Cowtown Moderne icons, etc. They provide texture and contrast and visual interest and, oftentimes, a more human scale and pedestrian interaction. Artists would respond to all of that, I would think. In Dallas, of course, we plowed all that stuff down because it’s generally easier, more profitable to build new, and a chief reason it is is that the city, until relatively recently, offered no resistance to developers. Not surprisingly, parking lots and strip centers rarely make for compelling watercolors.

    Playwright D. L. Coburn’s suggested motto for Dallas still applies, for the most part, in the age of Victory and the suburban McMansions: “We can get the zoning changed.”

  • Well, whether Fort Worth’s “historic” buildings are still standing or not, the painters at the time thought enough of the built environment to apply sympathetic brushes to canvas/paper. Fort Worth didn’t start razing “shacks” until, I guess, the ’70s or ’80s. Not sure when Dallas started swingin’ the wrecking ball wildly. Probably long before Fort Worth even got the notion, but still … there doesn’t seem to be any explanation for Cowtown’s thorough painterly documentation. And Dallas is older and thus more dynamic, more like a bona fide city in the traditional, coastal-America sense of the term. Fort Worth tends to look like just small urban center surrounded by suburbs. (???)