Of Birds and Texas: The Art of Stuart and Scott Gentling

 Of Birds and Texas: The Art of Stuart and Scott Gentling
Roseate spoonbill (image courtesy of Museum of Printing History Houston)

Of Birds and Texas: The Art of Stuart and Scott Gentling featured lithographic prints from the Gentlings’ limited-edition 1986 elephant folio, Of Birds and Texas.

Acclaimed as “the most magnificent book ever produced in Texas” the 47-pound boxed portfolio features more than 50 plates along with accompanying text by the Gentling brothers and an essay by legendary Texas writer John Graves. Rosenberg Library owns an extremely rare signed printer’s edition of Of Birds and Texas which includes notes by the artists and chromalin printer’s proofs. Pages from this folio were on display during the event.

Born in Rochester, Minnesota in 1942, the Gentling twins relocated to Fort Worth, Texas at age five. After attending college at Tulane University, both young men were accepted into the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of Arts. Though their approaches to art were different and each possessed a unique style, the brothers often collaborated on works and were creative partners throughout their entire careers.

 Of Birds and Texas: The Art of Stuart and Scott Gentling
Scott and Stuart Gentling

During their childhood, Stuart and Scott Gentling were extremely interested in nature and collecting. At age thirteen, Stuart discovered the work of the great naturalist John James Audubon and felt inspired enough to make a copy of Audubon’s painting of wood ducks, one of his favorite birds. He enlisted the help of his brother Scott who had recently begun experimenting with watercolor paints. Together the twins made a large copy of Audubon’s ducks, and this life-changing event led to their vocations as painters of birds.

After successful local sales of their bird paintings, the Gentlings dreamed up the idea of creating a modern-day, Texas-specific version of Audubon’s Birds of America. Beginning in 1983, the brothers began travelling the state of Texas to view and draw the state’s most beloved birds in their natural settings. By 1984, the Gentlings were running out of the money necessary to complete the production. The brothers mortgaged the home they shared; their mother also mortgaged her home. The twins put up a rare and valuable painting from their personal collection as collateral for a bank loan. Eventually this work — an original painting of boat-tailed grackles by John James Audubon — had to be sold in order to pay off their debt after publishing the book. In 1987, Sotheby’s auction house arranged the sale, and the winning bid was $253,000. (The total cost of the Of Birds and Texas project was $850,000.)

 Of Birds and Texas: The Art of Stuart and Scott Gentling
Canvasback Duck (image courtesy of Museum of Printing History Houston)

While perhaps best known for their work as bird painters, Stuart and Scott Gentling continued to pursue other artistic ventures in the 1990s and 2000s. Scott Gentling won the commission to paint the official gubernatorial portraits of Texas governors George W. Bush and Rick Perry. Together the Gentling brothers designed the dramatic dome mural for the Bass Performing Hall in downtown Fort Worth and ran a successful art gallery.

Stuart Gentling died in 2006; Scott passed away five years later in 2011.

 Of Birds and Texas: The Art of Stuart and Scott Gentling
Jim Foster (image courtesy of Jim Foster)


The exhibit opening featured a gallery talk with Jim Foster, acclaimed nature photographer and writer. Mr. Foster is a native Texan who now lives in Salmon, Idaho. He specializes in writing and photography related to nature, the environment, and travel. Foster’s publications include Texas Birding Trails and the upcoming Texas Birding Trails: The Gulf Coast. His photographs have appeared in national newspapers and magazines, and he authors a widely read blog.

Guests at the Library’s March 9 opening were automatically entered for a chance to win their own beautifully framed, limited edition Gentling print courtesy of the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council and J. Bangle’s Silk Stocking Gallery.

 Of Birds and Texas: The Art of Stuart and Scott Gentling
Snow Geese (PLATE VII from the Of Birds and Texas folio)


Of Birds and Texas: The Art of Stuart and Scott Gentling was a joint collaboration with Galveston Reads 2013. Galveston Reads is a voluntary organization composed of community representatives. It’s modeled after ‘One City, One Book’ projects around the country that are designed to promote the reading of the same book at the same time by their residents of high school age through senior citizens. The committee endeavors to choose a book of interest to this community and to use accompanying events to bring together the Galveston citizens by encouraging reading and thoughtful discussions. The 2013 book selection was The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik. For more details, click here.