Gerald (Jerry) Williamson Bywaters, 1906-89, grew up in Dallas, though he was born in Paris, Texas. Bywaters received a B.A. degree in 1926 in comparative literature from Southern Methodist University, Dallas. A painting class in his senior year, taught by Ralph S. Rowntree, led to the two men leaving on a painting trip to France and Spain.
Back in Texas, Bywaters studied with Olin Travis and Thomas M. Stell at the Dallas Art Institute. He also studied briefly with Bruce Crane at the art colony in Old Lyme, Connecticut, and at the Art Students League, New York City, for three months, with Ivan Olinsky and John Sloan.
Bywaters had a wide-ranging career as a painter of portraits, landscapes and still-lifes. He was a muralist, illustrator and graphic artist, as well as a critic, writer, teacher, and administrator.
Bywaters became an influential leader of the Regionalist art movement in Texas in a variety of professional positions, enhancing the reputation of the Texas art scene for more than twenty years, 1930-1950. He wrote for a number of publications; taught at the Dallas Art Institute (1932-37); was an art critic for the Dallas Morning News (1933-37); art editor of the Southwest Review (1936-57); taught at Southern Methodist University (1937 into the 1980s); director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (1943-64); regional director for the Texas Project, Archives of American Art (1974-89); board member of the Print Council of America; and curator of numerous exhibitions.
Bywaters painted murals in the Carnegie Public Library, Paris, Texas; in U.S. Post Offices in Farmersville, Houston, Trinity, Paris, and Quanah, Texas; as well as nine murals in collaboration with Alexandre Hogue at the Dallas City Hall.
Jerry Bywaters' art is in the collections of the Museums of Abilene; Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin; J. Wayne Stark University Center Galleries and Frank H., Wardlaw Collection of Texas Art, Texas A&M University, College Station; South Texas Institute for the Arts, Corpus Christi; Dallas Historical Society; Dallas Museum of Art; Southern Methodist University, Dallas; Texas Woman's University, Denton; Museum of Fine Arts; Houston; Torch Collection, Torch Energy Advisors, Inc., Houston; Museum of Texas Tech University, Lubbock; Art Club, McKinney; San Antonio Art League; Trinity University, San Antonio; Wichita Falls Museum and Art Center; Princeton University, New Jersey.
In 1981, the Jerry Bywaters Collection on Art of the Southwest was created at Southern Methodist University based on the artist's donation of his books and papers. Bywaters was given an honorary doctoral degree in 1987 by the University. Jerry Bywaters died in Dallas in 1989.
Bywaters' lengthy list of exhibitions includes:
Annual Allied Arts Exhibition, Dallas
Texas General Exhibition
Dallas Graphic Arts Society
Dallas Woman's Club
Joseph Sartor Galleries, Dallas
Annual Texas Artists Exhibition, Fort Worth
Annual Exhibition of the State Fair of Texas, Dallas
Nine Young Dallas Artists
Dallas Painters in Oils
Texas Invitational Exhibition