Huddle, Nannie Zenobia Carver (1860–1951)

By: Kendall Curlee

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1995

Updated: October 31, 2019

Nannie Carver Huddle, painter and sculptor, was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1860, the third of six daughters of Leonora (Moss) and Benjamin Franklin Carver. When she was a young girl her family moved to Austin, where she attended St. Mary's Academy. There she received her first art lessons from a nun who arranged for her work to be critiqued by William Henry Huddle, a painter of historical scenes and portraits who moved to Austin in 1876. Huddle told her to paint a flower "so that it seems that you can reach around it," advice she later credited as the most influential on her style. Nannie and Huddle were married ten years later, at which time Nannie temporarily gave up painting. They had a daughter in 1891.

After her husband's premature death in 1892, Mrs. Huddle withdrew from most outside contact for a period of about eight years. Seeking "something to fill my life," she began painting again in 1894. She concluded that she needed further training, and in the early 1900s spent several years in New York City, where she studied at the Art Students League, which her husband had helped to establish, and with William Merritt Chase, Wayman Adams, and Marshall Troy; she also studied with T. S. Frackelton in Chicago. She exhibited her work for the first time during this period, then returned to Austin with a growing reputation as a painter, which won her an appointment from Governor Joseph Sayers to teach at the Texas School for the Deaf, a position she held until her retirement in the mid-1940s.

In addition to teaching, Nannie Huddle became a close friend and the sole pupil of Elisabet Ney, with whom she studied sculpture from 1903 until Ney's death in 1907. One of the first works that Huddle sculpted was a portrait bust of her twelve-year-old daughter, Marguerite, sensitively modeled in the style of Ney. At least one other sculpture by Huddle has survived, a bas-relief of Stephen F. Austin that was probably copied from one of Ney's works. Despite the talent evident in these sculptures, Huddle soon returned to her first love, flower painting. She is credited as one of the first in the state to paint fields of bluebonnets and, as a wildflower painter, helped to establish a genre that was further developed by San Antonio painter Julian Onderdonk and popularized by the Edgar B. Davis wildflower competitions of 1927–29, sponsored at the Witte Museum by Davis and the San Antonio Art League.

In addition to wildflowers, Huddle painted portraits, and during Woodrow Wilson's presidency the Texas legislature commissioned her to paint the president's portrait. She was also commissioned to design coats of arms for President Wilson's advisor Edward M. House, for Zachary Scott, and for the Kleberg family. The first solo exhibition of her work was mounted in February 1933 by the Austin Woman's Club, and in 1943 she exhibited landscapes and flower arrangements at the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs headquarters in Austin. Selections of her wildflower paintings were periodically exhibited at the University of Texas, where they won praise for scientific accuracy as well as loveliness. Fannie Huddle was a member of the Southern States Art League and the Austin Art League.

In later years she lived in her daughter's home, where one room was converted to serve as a studio. She continued to collect and paint plant specimens in an effort to record as many kinds of wildflowers from Central Texas as possible. These watercolors, better than her occasionally muddy oils, were painted with a light touch that prevented the fragile beauty of the flowers from being weighed down with laborious detail. Over 100 of her watercolors of wildflowers were anonymously donated to the University of Texas a year before her death. She died on July 21, 1951. Two years later, her paintings were displayed with her husband's in a joint show at the Texas Fine Arts Festival in Austin, and in 1989 Fannie Huddle's sculptures were included in the exhibition A Century of Sculpture in Texas, 1889–1989. Examples of her work are included in the collections of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center and the Texas Memorial Museum, both located at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Austin American-Statesman, February 5, 1950, July 22, 1951. Patricia D. Hendricks and Becky D. Reese, A Century of Sculpture in Texas, 1889–1989 (Huntington Art Gallery, University of Texas at Austin, 1989). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Visual Arts
  • Painting
  • Sculpture
  • Women

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

Kendall Curlee, “Huddle, Nannie Zenobia Carver,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 12, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995
October 31, 2019

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