Dreyer, Margaret Webb (1911–1976)

By: Kendall Curlee

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: January 27, 2017

Margaret Webb Dreyer, painter and gallery owner, was born in East St. Louis, Illinois, on September 29, 1911, the eldest of two daughters and a son born to Elmer E. and Eula Richey Webb. As a girl she moved with her family to Houston, Texas, where she lived most of her life. She exhibited an interest in art from an early age and took art courses at Westmoreland College, San Antonio; the University of Texas, Austin; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Institute Allende in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She married Martin Dreyer, a newspaper columnist, on September 17, 1941, and they had a son named Thorne.

Throughout her career Margaret Dreyer experimented with such styles as Cubism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism; her work was characterized by bold strokes and rich colors and textures. Her best-known series include Blueprint for Survival, a group of abstract works representing the artist's feelings about the Vietnam War, and Maggie's Songs, a series of large, nonobjective stained paintings on raw canvas that she completed shortly before her death. She exhibited her paintings in competitive exhibitions throughout Texas and won awards from the Texas Watercolor Society in 1970 and 1971 and from the Texas Fine Arts Association in 1971. Her work was represented in the Eleventh Midwest Biennial at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, and in traveling exhibitions sponsored by the Texas Fine Arts Association. Dreyer was a member of the Texas Watercolor Society, the Texas Fine Arts Association, and the Houston Art League.

In addition to painting and exhibiting her work, she taught art, first at Ripley House, then from 1950 to 1960 as director of the art program run by the Houston parks and recreation department. With a friend, Charlene Carpenter, she began a company that commissioned local artists to design and execute murals and mosaics for businesses and homes, thus providing jobs for leading artists in Houston. Dreyer had perhaps her greatest impact promoting the work of young artists in the Houston area. She ran Dreyer Galleries from her home on San Jacinto from 1961 to 1975, a period when few Houston galleries exhibited local artists. She showed particular support for African-American and young female artists. During the late 1960s she became involved in the human rights and peace movements and held meetings for various groups in her gallery. A group calling itself the Ku Klux Klan harassed her by riddling her home with bullets and throwing yellow paint on the side of her house; she responded by painting the whole wall yellow.

Margaret Dreyer died of cancer on December 17, 1976. She was eulogized for her contributions to the Houston art community in a service at the Rothko Chapel, and her last series, Maggie's Songs, was exhibited at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, shortly after her death. In 1979 the University of St. Thomas mounted a retrospective of her paintings. Examples of Dreyer's work are in the permanent collections of the Institute of International Education in New York City; Abe Issa Interests in Kingston, Jamaica; and many private collections.

Visit the Texas Women Project's standalone website

The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.

Visit Website

Martin Dreyer, "Portrait of a Houston Artist: An Interview with Margaret Webb Dreyer," Houston Review: History and Culture of the Gulf Coast 5 (Winter 1983). Houston Post, December 19, 1976, April 8, 1979. Who's Who in American Art, 1973.

  • Education
  • Educators
  • Art and Architecture
  • Visual Arts
  • Painting
  • Women
Time Periods:
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

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

Kendall Curlee, “Dreyer, Margaret Webb,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 10, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/dreyer-margaret-webb.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

December 1, 1994
January 27, 2017

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: