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SCHIWETZ, EDWARD MUEGGE [BUCK]

SCHIWETZ, EDWARD MUEGGE [BUCK] (1898–1984). E. M. (Buck) Schiwetz, artist, was born in Cuero, Texas, on August 24, 1898, the first child of William Berthold and Anna (Reiffert) Schiwetz. His father was a banker, and his mother was an artist, whose pencil drawings provided the earliest models for her son. Mary Louise Gramann, a china painter, also encouraged Schiwetz; her influence can be seen in the meticulous, dry strokes evident in his earliest work, Cabin in the Woods, which he painted at age twelve. As an adolescent Schiwetz developed his life-long habit of recording his surroundings in sketches. Upon his graduation from high school in 1916, his dream of attending an art school was thwarted by his father, who insisted that he enroll in an engineering program at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (later Texas A&M University). Schiwetz switched to architecture and graduated in 1921. During this period he traveled throughout Texas, and small towns and natural areas became his chief subject matter. Schiwetz spent a year in graduate studies in architecture at A&M. In 1922 he moved to Dallas, where he studied under John Doctoroff and the advertising artist Guy Cahoon. Schiwetz then became a draftsman for the architectural firm Thompson and Swaine. He married sculptor and ceramist Ruby Lee Sanders on January 30, 1926. They moved to Houston in 1928, where Schiwetz did freelance work for a year. In 1928 the couple moved to New York City. Schiwetz spent his evenings studying etching and lithography at the Art Students League; during the day he sketched and sold his work to such magazines as House Beautiful, Scribner's, Pencil Points, and Pictorial Review. In 1929 he returned to Texas to become an art director and partner in the Houston advertising firm of Franke, Wilkinson and Schiwetz. He and his wife had a daughter in 1931.

Schiwetz continued to sketch and paint on his own, finding inspiration in the Texas coast. During the 1930s he loosened up his linear style by experimenting in pure watercolors such as Summer Pastime (1931). The effect of this fluid medium on his style can be seen in such works as Souvenir of Galveston (1931), in which the artist used rapid scribbled lines to suggest forms. In the mid-1930s he simulated the work of Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, and Vincent Van Gogh, though he did not exhibit these exercises. Schiwetz varied his method and media but was generally consistent in choosing picturesque buildings, oilfields, and natural areas in Texas as his subject matter. His etchings and watercolors began to win awards: the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, purchase prize in 1933 and the Southern States Art League Watercolor Prize and the New Orleans Art Society Watercolor Prize in 1936. During the 1940s he won prizes at the Five State Show at the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa (1940), the Witte Museum in San Antonio (1944), and the Fort Worth Art Association purchase prize, Texas General (1948). In 1954 he won a prize from the American Watercolor Society in New York City. He exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago (1931, 1943, 1945), the American Watercolor Society (1930, 1952, 1954), the Philadelphia Watercolor Society (1930), the Grand Rapids Art Gallery (1940), and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (1947). By 1948 he had had one-man shows in five Texas museums. Schiwetz also exhibited in the Architectural League of New York, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, the Library of Congress in Washington, and the Knoedler Gallery in New York City. Schiwetz's advertising work for oil and chemical companies also helped to establish his reputation as a recorder of the Texas scene. The Humble Way, a magazine established in 1945 for Humble Oil and Refining Company (later Exxon Company, U.S.A.), featured Schiwetz's sketches and watercolors of the areas where the company operated. The popularity of his work prompted the company to publish the first Texas Sketchbook of favorite Schiwetz drawings in 1952; it was followed by a revised and enlarged edition in 1958. A collection of sketches called Buck Schiwetz' Texas was published in 1960 with an introduction by Schiwetz's friend and former high school teacher Walter Prescott Webb. Schiwetz's sketches of Texas courthouses and other old buildings prompted interest that often saved them from demolition. He gave speeches to groups about preserving their local heritage and worked with preservation organizations to save old buildings. His contributions to Texas were honored in 1965, when he was made a member of the Knights of the Order of San Jacinto. He was also a member of the California Watercolor Society, the Texas Watercolor Society, and the Philosophical Society of Texas.

In 1966 Schiwetz retired from his position as advertising consultant in order to devote himself to his art. His visit to his brother Berthold "Tex" Schiwetzqv, a sculptor working in Rome, afforded him the opportunity to sketch the Italian countryside and to visit Rome, Venice, and Florence. In 1968 his Six Spanish Missions in Texas: A Portfolio of Paintings was published. That year his studio in Hunt, which contained many of his works and his wife's weaving and ceramics, was blown up by a butane heater. In 1969 Schiwetz sought treatment for alcoholism. The success of his treatment galvanized his career: he mounted a forty-five-piece one-man show of new work in Houston six months after treatment began. In 1971 he was the subject of a fifty-year retrospective at the University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio. In 1972 he wrote and illustrated The Schiwetz Legacy: An Artist's Tribute to Texas, 1910–1971, for which he was awarded the Coral H. Tullis Memorial Award from Texas State Historical Association in 1973. Although Schiwetz suffered a heart attack and stroke in 1974 that temporarily paralyzed him on the right side and underwent surgery to remove cancer in 1976, he nevertheless found time to act as artist-in-residence during the Texas A&M centennial celebration in 1976, during which time he produced Buck Schiwetz' Aggieland: A Portfolio of Eight Scenes from Texas A & M University. Two years later he wrote and illustrated another book, Buck Schiwetz' Memories. He was selected to be the official state artist of Texas for the year 1977–78. In the early 1970s Ruby Lee Schiwetz began to suffer from a recurrent illness that eventually required her permanent hospitalization. In the mid-seventies the artist moved to Windy Hill, a ranch northwest of Cuero that belonged to Sharon Steen, his business manager. Mrs. Steen and her husband, Lias (Bubba) Steen, met Schiwetz after they bought and restored the Schiwetz home in Cuero, and a close friendship developed. Sharon nursed Schiwetz back to health after his cancer surgery in 1976. In his last years Schiwetz devoted himself to painting, rising at 5:00 every morning to work for eight to ten hours. He continued to experiment with his style by painting abstractions and multimedia works and combining acrylics, watercolors, felt-tip pens, ink-washes, or crayons. He died on February 2, 1984. Examples of his work can be found in the Dallas Museum of Art, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center in Austin, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Jakie L. Pruett and Everett B. Cole, Buck Schiwetz: The Man and His Art (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1982).

Kendall Curlee

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Kendall Curlee, "SCHIWETZ, EDWARD MUEGGE [BUCK]," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fsc49), accessed November 28, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.