Bringing Art to the Hinterland

Fort Worth Carnegie LibraryI’ve been taking a class at TCU on the History of Fort Worth Artists and Sculptors taught by Scott Barker and have been learning more about a woman the City of Fort Worth owes much of its artistic legacy to.

Jennie ScheuberJennie Scott Scheuber isn’t remembered for her art if she produced any, but for her desire to bring American art to the masses in Fort Worth.

I originally encountered the work of Mrs. Scheuber while researching a painting hanging in the Amon Carter Museum of American Art by George Inness. I learned Approaching Storm was owned by the Modern Museum of Art in the city and was the first serious work of art collected for public display in the city.

It was in 1892 that Scheuber helped found the Fort Worth Public Library Association, a group that sought to establish a “public library and art gallery” for the city. That effort was realized with the a $50,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie. The library opened in 1901. A gallery on the second floor sat empty, however, but it was Scheuber who saw to it that it would be filled, both with temporary exhibitions and works owned by the Fort Worth Art Association, of which she was a member. The group later founded the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

In 1909 Scheuber requested a loan from the American Federation of Arts, a Washington, D.C. based group formed that year. The group, which still operates, has a mission to enrich the public’s experience and understanding of art, primarily by taking original works “on tour to the hinterlands of the United States.” The group’s first traveling exhibit, Thirty-Eight Paintings by Prominent American Artists, came to Scheuber’s library in Fort Worth in December of that year.

Thomas Eakins SwimmingPaintings acquired by the association included Portrait of Clementina Beach by Gilbert Stuart, Memorial Portrait of Jefferson Davis McLean by John W. Alexander, Making Pottery by Eanger Irving Couse, Smeatons Cove by Hayley Lever, and Swimming by Thomas Eakins (this painting also currently hangs in the Amon Carter).

In 1937, city leaders decided the library was outdated. I asked Barker if Scheuber fought to save it. Scheuber had wanted the building to be used as the home for an art museum after a new library was constructed. That didn’t happen, and the building was demolished. “It probably killed her,” Barker commented. Despite her role as librarian from the beginning, in 1938 the library board judged the seventy-eight-year-old librarian to be out of step with modern library administration and ordered her to retire. She would live until 1944.

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