Dalhart Windberg: A Recollection
The following is a recollection of the early influence that artist Dalhart Windberg had on my art.
I was around 8 years old when I first became aware of famed Texas artist Dalhart Windberg during the mid 1970’s. My aunt who was quite talented and painted as a hobby and my uncle, collected Windberg prints. During a family visit, my aunt was showing my mother their print collection and I wanted to see it too. Even at this young age my interest in art was already quite high. My eyes became glued to the works as my aunt carefully unveiled each print. Windberg’s atmospheric qualities and little hidden details so characteristic of his work captivated my attention. This was probably my first real experience in seeing another persons art and I wanted to paint like that I thought to myself. The image below was one of the prints.
My Introduction to Oil Paints
My aunt must have taken notice of my interest in painting and a couple of years later bought me a starter set of oil paints as a gift. The first attempts were clumsy to say the least and I didn’t pursue it much until a couple of years later when a family friend and artist C. L. Curry began teaching lessons. Thankfully my parents agreed to the lessons and at the age of 12 I regularly attended the weekly 3 hour class. Soon the clumsiness that I first experienced with oil paints had passed.
Soon after this time at the age of 13, Dalhart was having a print signing in Houston, TX where we were living and was also showing a few original works. My father took me to see him. There was a long line to wait for him to autograph my copy of his first biography book “In The Path of the Masters” printed in 1978. While standing in line I overheard the conversation of a couple standing in front of me. One gentleman was describing one particular work of Windberg to the other about a night scene that he liked, but couldn’t remember the title. I spoke up and said: “Nocturnal Harmony!” The man turned to look at me with a very surprised look on his face. “That’s it!” he said in a voice of disbelief. I don’t think he expected a skinny little 13 year old to know that. But, I did. I liked that painting too.
Soon I was standing in front of the artist whose work I first admired several years before. He signed my book and then I viewed for the first time some of his original paintings. They were even more beautiful in person. There was still a long line of people waiting to see the artist and have their prints and books autographed, so I had to move along. I could have stared at those painting for a long time.
In 1984 another opportunity to meet the artist was in Midland, TX. He was having a showing of works at a local bank with artists Mark Pettit and Daryl Trott. I had purchased his first instruction book on his painting technique and wanted him to sign it. I took my aunt along who also had a copy. This time I got to spend quite a bit of time talking with him and even got to show an example of one of my paintings. It surprised my aunt who had never seen me talk so much as my inclination is to be rather reserved and quiet. But, when it comes to talking art, I can chatter with the best of them. The encounter ended with Dalhart giving me his business card and the invitation to contact him.
Visiting Windberg at His Home
About a year later, I mailed some photos of recent work to hopefully get a critique or some advice. I followed up with a phone call to see if he got the photos. He received them, but he told me it was hard to tell much from the photos and was there anyway for me to bring some of my paintings to his home so he could look at them….nope, not a chance, couldn’t possibly do that…yea right, I was already packing my bags.
I drove several hundred miles to his home in Austin, TX where he lived at the time. By now I had my driving license. Dalhart took me to dinner at nearby cafe where we ate and talked art. I was shown great hospitality from him and his wife Evelyn. I spent the night in the guest room and the next day was able to watch him paint in his studio. A funny moment was when while watching him paint, I noticed that some elements with a similar shape in the painting lined up in a row. I spoke up and pointed it out. Thankfully, I wasn’t thrown out onto the street. No, he was very gracious and admitted that I was right. He then corrected the area. Later, he told me; “I can’t teach you to paint. You already know how to do that. But, I can teach you how to get a more professional look to your paints.” Thus he shared from his experience some of the technical aspects of painting with me. What a privilege.
For a considerable time after that I tried to follow his technique from reading his instruction book. Then in 1987 I was invited to spend a day or two in Fredericksburg, TX where Dalhart was teaching a workshop. Again, I accepted the invitation and took along one of my paintings. By this time my work was receiving comments from others that they looked like Windberg’s! Dalhart even showed the painting I brought as an example to some of the other students in his workshop. One of those students later took a few art lessons from me!
But, as time went on and as appreciation for other art styles and my artistic knowledge about various techniques grew, I now had the desire to find my own look and style. I’m happy to say I feel I have, but I’m still ever grateful to the advice and experience of Dalhart Windberg who became one of several early influences on my art. All receive a heartfelt thanks for sharing their time and expertise.