"Random Velocities"

  • Biography

    Ralph White (1921-2004)

    Ralph White was named by the Texas Legislature as the Texas State artist for the year 2003, an honor to recognize his important contribution to the artistic heritage of the state. White grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and drawing and artistic expression came easily for him. From 1939 to 1942, he attended the Minneapolis School of Art, where he received recognition for his talent. After graduation, White enrolled at the University of Minnesota. His education was interrupted because he was inducted into the Army and served as an instructor on the B-24 bombers. By the end of the war he was a test pilot for the next generation of bombers. Even during these difficult war years White found a way to continue his artistic endeavors by assisting Julius Woeltz who was painting a mural at one of the bases where White was stationed. Woeltz introduced his young friend to colleagues at the University of Texas, Department of Fine Arts, where Woeltz taught. Ward Lockwood, who had founded the fine art department only a few years earlier, encouraged White to continue his artistic pursuits and to consider joining the faculty at the University of Texas "when and if this war is over." After the war, White declined an offer to fly for an airline and took advantage of a scholarship prize (the Van Derlip Fellowship) he had won in 1942, and enrolled in the Pratt Institute in New York City. Upon graduation from Pratt in 1946, White accepted an offer to teach at the University of Texas, where he became one of the youngest art faculty members. He served on the faculty for the next 36 years. His service included a stint as Department Head, and teaching duties involved most of the types of courses taught: studio art, drawing, painting, commercial art, etc. Many of the artists active in Texas today studied with Ralph - for example Charles Shorre began as a White student and became a life-long friend. Ralph White's students include among others: Al Barnes, Charles Shorre, Clay McGaughy, Bob Wygand, Kuo Yen Ng, Dwain Kelly, Jo Alys Downs, and many others. Since 1982, he has been a Professor Emeritus, University of Texas. In addition to his distinguished academic accomplishments and contributions, Ralph White has participated actively in the broader artistic life of his age. He has exhibited in well over 100 group and one-man exhibitions in Texas, across the United States and in foreign countries.His work has been recognized with purchase prizes, first place awards and commendations so many times he has lost count. This April he received the patrons' award from Austin public television for one of his large canvases donated to help support public television in the Austin area, a gift he makes each year. Ralph's generosity is not limited in any way. For the last five years he has had twenty of his large canvases on loan to Texas A&M University to enhance the environment in the University's academic computing centers. Like all artists, White is influenced by the time and place in which he lives. He studies and draws from the art movements of this time; he assimilates, modifies, enhances, looks deep within his being, and adds his own creative genius. There has been much movement in his art over the course of his career - from a somewhat representational style, through the incorporation of modernist ideas, to the large abstract work in acrylics he does today. Watercolor represents another side of his work. His style in watercolor, although varied and sometimes abstract, has tended to be more representational records of the life he has lived and the places he has visited. Although not known as a portrait painter, White is quite accomplished in this genre of work as well. Many families in Texas have portraits of family members. In fact his first scholarship was awarded for a portrait he painted in 1941.