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TENNANT, ALLIE VICTORIA

TENNANT, ALLIE VICTORIA (1898?–1971). Allie Victoria Tennant, a sculptor associated with the Dallas Nine group of Regionalist artists, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, one of five children of Thomas R. and Allie Virginia (Brown) Tennant. She was probably born in 1898, though some records suggest she was born in 1892. At an early age she moved with her family to Dallas, where she attended the public schools. Apparently she inherited her artistic ability from her father, a businessman who painted as a hobby. She made her first sculpture at age eight, and received her earliest artistic training from Vivian Louise Aunspaugh. From 1927 to 1928 she attended the Art Students League in New York City, where she studied anatomy under George Bridgeman and sculpture under Edward McCartan. She also took a lecture course with Viennese artist Eugene Steinhof at the Art Students League in 1933. After her return to Dallas, Allie Tennant became a respected, if peripheral, member of the Regionalist group of artists active there during the 1930s; it was a group dominated by men. She made portrait busts, full-figure commemorative works, fountain pieces, and architectural sculpture. Tennant favored the cast-bronze technique because of its durability, but also worked with marble and sandstone. On at least one piece, Negro Head (Negro) (1935), now in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art, she experimented with direct carving, a modernist rejection of the traditional processes used for bronze and marble, and a technique popular among Texan sculptors active at that time, including Ione Ruth Franklin, Bess Bigham Hubbard, Evaline C. Sellors, and Dorothy Austin. Tennant's best-known work is the nine-foot-high gilded-bronze Tejas Warrior (1936) placed over the entrance doorway of the Texas Centennial Hall of State building in Dallas. The smoothly modeled contours of the Indian warrior evidence the impact of the Art Deco movement and of sculptor Paul Howard Manship's archaism on Tennant's style. In her black bronze sculpture Negress (ca. 1936) and in an undated sculpture of a cat, she carried simplification to a greater extreme for expressive purposes. Tennant's other major commissions included decorative reliefs for the Dallas Aquarium at Fair Park (1936), also part of the Centennial program; the James Butler Bonham Memorial (1938) in Bonham; and the Antonio Navarro Memorial (1938) in Corsicana. She also did the relief Cattle, Oil, and Wheat (1940), for the post office in Electra-this relief was funded by the Work Projects Administration. In addition she completed a number of portrait busts and garden sculptures for schools, private institutions, and individual patrons.

From the late 1920s to the early 1940s Tennant exhibited her work extensively. She won prizes for sculptures exhibited in the Dallas Allied Arts exhibitions in 1928, 1929, and 1932, and in 1935 won the Kiest Memorial Prize from the Dallas Art Association. She also won prizes from the Southern States Art League in 1932, 1933, and 1936. Tennant received national recognition as well, exhibiting her work at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1935), the Art Institute of Chicago (1935), the Kansas City Art Institute (1935), the Architectural League of New York (1938), the World's Fair in New York (1939), the Whitney Museum of American Art (1940), the National Sculpture Society (1940), and the Carnegie Institute (1941). She was elected a fellow of the National Sculpture Society in 1934, and was also a member of the Dallas Art Association, the Highland Park Society of Arts, and the Southern States Art League. In 1943 Tennant and other prominent Texan sculptors founded the Texas Sculptors Group, for which she served as first president. In addition to sculpting and exhibiting her work, Tennant lectured, contributed articles on garden sculpture to the local paper, and taught at the Dallas Art Institute. She died on December 19, 1971, and was buried in Oakland Cemetery. Her work is included in the collections of the Dallas Museum of Art, the Hockaday School, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and the Women's Club, all in Dallas; McMurry College, Abilene; and the Brookgreen Sculpture Gardens in Georgetown County, South Carolina.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Patricia D. Hendricks and Becky D. Reese, A Century of Sculpture in Texas, 1889–1989 (Huntington Art Gallery, University of Texas at Austin, 1989). Jerry Bywaters Collection on the Art of the Southwest, Southern Methodist University. Rick Stewart, Lone Star Regionalism (Austin: Texas Monthly Press, 1985). Who's Who of American Women, 1958–59.

Kendall Curlee

Citation

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

Kendall Curlee, "TENNANT, ALLIE VICTORIA," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fte37), accessed September 23, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.