Of Birds and Texas: The Art of Stuart & Scott Gentling

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THE ARTISTS: Stuart Gentling and Scott Gentling are two of Texas’ most distinguished contemporary artists in ornithilogical renderings. The brothers grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, the center of the American Realist tradition, in the 1960s. Stuart, the more business oriented of the pair, passed away in 2011, while Scott, the more accomplished artist of the two brothers, died in 2006. They were most well-known for their self-published, oversized portfolio Of Birds & Texas.

THE PROJECT: From early childhood, the Gentling brothers were fascinated by the work of John James Audubon. Born in 1785, Audubon traveled the eastern portion of the North American continent, sketching and painting native birds and animals. From his watercolors, Audubon launched an ambitious program of making prints and publishing a limited edition folio of The Birds of America. Two hundred years after Audubon’s birth, Stuart Gentling and Scott Gentling set out to travel Texas to sketch and paint the birds of their native state. Their dream was to create a large-scale portfolio (termed an elephant folio) of the birds, with written commentary by the artists and with an essay by Texas writer John Graves.

THE PRINTING: To create their project, the Gentling brothers’ original watercolors were photographed. Color plates were made at Color Separations Inc., of San Antonio. Then, the forty images of birds and ten landscapes were printed by David Holman of Wind River Press in Austin on a Heidelberg Press, on 80-lb. Mohawk Superfine Paper. Each print is 22 x 28 inches, with the finished set, including the John Graves essay, weighing 46 lbs. Five hundred boxed sets were printed, with commentary and essay, and bound by Craig Jensen of the Jensen Bindery in Austin. When Of Birds & Texas was introduced in 1986, the late Texas writer A.C. Greene hailed the finished project as “the most stunning and prodigious book in Texas history.” Other critics said “Scott and Stuart Gentling’s Of Birds & Texas is probably the most magnificent book ever produced in Texas.” In 2001 the University of Texas Press issued a trade book edition of the Gentling project of the same title. Selections from their bird series, printed as offset lithographs, are presented here. Through the installation some of the artists’ stylistic conventions for depicting these avian creatures can be seen. All prints on display are from the permanent collection of The Printing Museum, Houston, Texas.