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Everett Spruce

Owl on Rocks

Born near Conway, Arkansas, Everett Spruce was raised on a peach and apple farm in the Ozark Mountains. As a teenager, he met artist and founder of the Dallas Art Institute Olin Travis, who held a summer art camp in the mountains. In 1925, Travis brought Spruce to Dallas to attend the institute, where he studied under Thomas M. Stell.

Spruce paints this owl in rich impasto, with layers of brown, gray, green, and red filling the painter’s ground of the board. He shows the body of the animal, seen in profile except for its head turned toward the viewer, with a light gray underside and feathers in layers like scales across its back. Spruce’s owl has landed on some rocks adjacent to a tree stump; a workman’s axe sits in the right foreground. The owl is a great horned owl, easily identifiable by its tufts of feather that appear to be horns. A longstanding symbol of night and of wisdom, Spruce’s owl confronts the painting’s viewer.

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