Crawford, Katherine Lester (1864–1947)

By: Diana Church

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: April 19, 2021

Katherine Crawford, artist and art patron, was born in May 1864 in Oxford, Mississippi, the daughter of Dr. J. D. and L. Josephine (Oliver) Lester. On December 11, 1879, she married Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, Jr., in Lafayette County, Mississippi; they had a son. In 1885 her husband became a personal secretary for his father, Secretary of the Interior L. Q. C. Lamar, Sr., and Katherine served as her father-in-law's hostess for his household in Washington, D.C. About 1887 Katherine Lamar moved to Paris, France, enrolled in the Académie Julien, and studied under Adolphe Bouguereau, Jules Clement Chaplain, Albert Durand, and Edmond Louis Dupain. After traveling, sketching, and painting throughout Europe, she returned to the United States in 1892 and moved to Dallas as an art instructor for Professor Jones' Female College. By 1894 she was head of the art department at North Texas Female College (later Kidd-Key College) in Sherman. In 1895 she established a school of art at 189 San Jacinto Street in Dallas.

On October 9, 1896, she married William Lyne Crawford, an attorney. They had one son and lived, along with her son from her first marriage, in an elegant Eastlake mansion at 3709 Ross Avenue. Mrs. Crawford presented several salons and opened an art gallery in her home, the first private gallery in Dallas. The Crawford Gallery displayed the family collection of statuary and 300 paintings and held annual exhibitions of work by European, American, and regional artists. It was at the time one of the finest privately owned collections in the Southwest and was open to the public by appointment. The Crawford home was also decorated with Mrs. Crawford's own work. In the dining room she painted a large mural depicting a feast scene of the Roman god Bacchus, and she decorated the breakfast rooms with Western rural landscapes and scenes from Texas history. She was particularly skilled as a portrait artist, and several of her portraits of noted Dallasites were displayed in her home.

Around 1920 she worked with the Dallas Morning News to establish and lead the Texas Art League, an organization devoted to bringing students and European instructors together to study all branches of art. She planned to develop the league into an academy of design and include in it a permanent gallery. Although a famous German court painter, Kunz-Meyer, participated in the league, there is no evidence that the academy evolved as planned. Katherine Crawford died in Dallas on March 4, 1947, and was buried in Oakland Cemetery there. After her death, the extensive Crawford collection was dispersed. Some items were sold; others were given to museums.

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Diana Church, Guide to Dallas Artists, 1890–1917 (Plano, Texas, 1987). Frances Battaile Fisk, A History of Texas Artists and Sculptors (Abilene, Texas, 1928; facsimile rpt., Austin: Morrison, 1986). William L. McDonald, Dallas Rediscovered: A Photographic Chronicle of Urban Expansion, 1870–1925 (Dallas: Dallas County Historical Society, 1978). Who's Who of the Womanhood of Texas, Vol. 1 (Fort Worth: Texas Federation of Women's Clubs, 1923–24).

  • Education
  • Educators
  • Art and Architecture
  • Visual Arts
  • Painting
  • Women
Time Periods:
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Progressive Era
  • Great Depression
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • World War II
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

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

Diana Church, “Crawford, Katherine Lester,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2022,

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December 1, 1994
April 19, 2021

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