From the Frary's Private Collection.
Michael Frary was born in Santa Monica, California on May 28, 1918, and died on Tuesday, August 30, 2005. During a career spanning almost seventy years, Michael Frary influenced the course of art, not only in Texas, but in the United States as well. He was a seminal figure in the art movement known as modernism and with his contemporaries on the faculty of the Art Department at the University of Texas, he changed the face of art on a national scale. Now widely celebrated as a Texas Modernist, his influence has also shaped the lives and careers of the countless thousands of students whom he taught both in a classroom setting and through hundreds of watercolor seminars and workshops throughout the southwest. His father died when Michael was six months old. Relatives from the east moved Michael, his mother and siblings from California to Florida. He graduated from Palm Beach High School in 1934 and returned to California where he accepted a swimming scholarship from the University of Southern California. During his time at USC, he became a champion swimmer and captain of the USC varsity water polo team. Despite a high school football injury that resulted in a broken neck, he received eight letters, which at that time was the maximum number possible. In 1940, he graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture Degree, and a Master of Fine Arts in painting the following year. At the outbreak of World War II, Michael joined the United States Navy, eventually receiving his discharge as Lieutenant at the war's conclusion in 1945. Upon his return to California, he became assistant art director first for the Goldwyn Studios, Paramount, and then finally Universal Studios. His hectic lifestyle, although glamorous, did not allow him enough time to pursue his love of painting. To fulfill this need Michael began teaching night classes in painting. Shortly thereafter UCLA offered a full-time teaching position, and he made a permanent break from art director to painting instructor. During his teaching career in California, Michael also taught at Los Angeles City College and the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. In 1949, Michael moved to Texas to serve as the artist in residence and faculty chairman for the irrepressible Marion Koogler McNay in San Antonio. He taught at her burgeoning art school for several seasons. It was during this time in San Antonio that he met Peggy Mattewson who he married in 1951. In 1955, he accepted a teaching position as assistant professor with the University of Texas at Austin, which named him Professor of Art in 1970 and upon his retirement from teaching in 1986 he was named Professor Emeritus of Art. His artwork and love for the state in which he lived for more than half a century resulted in the publication of three books: Impressions of the Big Thicket, University of Texas Press, 1973; Impressions of the Texas Panhandle, Texas A&M University Press, 1977; and Watercolors of the Rio Grande, Texas A&M University Press, 1984. Through his writing and watercolors, these books vividly convey the breadth and scope of the land that provided his inspiration. In pursuit of this inspiration he and his wife, Peggy also traveled across the United States, South America, South Africa, England, Mexico, Italy, and France. During his career, Michael received over one hundred seventy-five awards and purchase prizes and earned over 200 one-man exhibitions. His works are housed in hundreds of private and public collections worldwide including the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, S.C., the Los Angeles County Museum, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California, the Virginia Scott Museum, Pasadena, California. The Springfield Museum of Art, Springfield, Missouri, the Virginia Museum of Art, Richmond, Virginia, the Phillips Petroleum Building, Bartlesville, the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, the Panhandle Plains Museum, Canyon, Texas, Museum of the Big Bend, Alpine, Texas, the Amarillo Art Center, Amarillo, Texas the McNay Museum, San Antonio, Texas, the Texas instruments Collection, Dallas, Texas, the Austin Museum of Art, and the University of Texas at Austin. He also received many important commissions, which included, among others, the selection of his painting, "Antelope Country" by the National Gallery for presentation by President and Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson to the New Zealand Prime Minister and his wife at the Manila Conference. He was also commissioned in 1972 by the U.S. Department of Interior to paint at reclamation sites in four states, resulting in four of his painting being shown at an exhibition at the National Gallery, Washington, D.C. In 1974 the Austin Chapter of the American Institute of Architects awarded him the Medal of Honor and the Texas Society of Architects presented him with the Citation of Honor, both in recognition of his book Impressions of The Big Thicket. In 1978, he was commissioned to paint the Psyche Prize for the Fourth Biennial International Film Festival of Canada.