Wings In Watercolor: 33 Works by Boyer Gonzales, Sr. (1864 – 1934)

 Wings In Watercolor: 33 Works by Boyer Gonzales, Sr. (1864 – 1934)
Boyer Gonzales, Sr. (1864 – 1934)

Art enthusiasts and birders alike enjoyed this exhibition which featured thirty-three watercolors and sketches of various birds, most of which have never before been on display to the public. Sponsors for the show included the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council, Featherfest 2007, and the Friends of Rosenberg Library.

Gonzales was an award-winning artist of national acclaim during the early twentieth century. His works are found in the collections of the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Vanderpoel Art Institute of Chicago, and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. During his lifetime, Boyer Gonzales held memberships to elite organizations such as the New York Watercolor Club, the Salmagundi Club, and the National Arts Club. His work was exhibited in galleries in San Antonio, Dallas, New York City, and at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Gonzales’s paintings of birds are not among his most recognized works, but his talent for capturing natural subjects is evident in those that are featured as part of this special exhibit.

Boyer Gonzales was born in Galveston, Texas on September 22, 1864. His father, Thomas Gonzales, was a successful merchant who immigrated to America from Mexico. His mother, Edith Boyer, came from a wealthy Philadelphia family. After they married, Thomas and Edith Gonzales moved to Galveston in 1853. Thomas Gonzales opened a wholesale grocery and cotton firm on The Strand between 21st and 22nd streets. The business thrived, and Thomas Gonzales eventually became president of the Galveston Stock Exchange and Board of Trade.

 Wings In Watercolor: 33 Works by Boyer Gonzales, Sr. (1864 – 1934)
Mallard Flight — Edge of Marsh, ca. 1921

As a teenager, Boyer Gonzales worked as a bookkeeper for his father’s business. Gonzales had been interested in art since his childhood, but his parents never encouraged him to seek formal training. In 1887, when he was 22 years old, Boyer Gonzales met the artist Winslow Homer, one of America’s most accomplished painters. Arthur Homer, Winslow’s brother, lived in Galveston and was a business associate of Thomas Gonzales and a friend of the family. He arranged for Boyer Gonzales to meet his brother while Gonzales was on a business trip in New England. The two artists quickly became friends. Homer invited Gonzales to spend several summers with him at his home in Prout’s Neck, Maine. There, mentor and protégé sketched, painted, and fished together.

At age 27, Boyer Gonzales was forced to take on more responsibility in the company when his 34-year-old brother died unexpectedly. His father passed away a few years later, leaving Boyer Gonzales in complete control of Thomas Gonzales & Sons. His duties to the family business left Boyer Gonzales with very little time to pursue his true passion—painting.

On September 8, 1900, Galveston Island was violently struck and nearly destroyed by a devastating hurricane. Several months after the storm, Boyer Gonzales made the decision to sell Thomas Gonzales & Sons and to devote his life to art. He married Nell Hertford of Galveston in 1907. The couple spent an extended honeymoon in Woodstock, New York where Gonzales had been accepted into the prestigious Art Students League. There, he was trained by the renowned watercolorist and landscape painter, Birge Harrison.

 Wings In Watercolor: 33 Works by Boyer Gonzales, Sr. (1864 – 1934)
Roseate Spoonbill, ca. 1925

Today more than 600 oil paintings, watercolors, and sketches by Boyer Gonzales, Sr. are part of the Rosenberg Library’s museum collection. The Galveston and Texas History Center holds the Gonzales Family Papers, an archival collection that includes photos, correspondence, diaries, sketchbooks, and other important documents.

Wings in Watercolor was on exhibit from March 16, 2007 through July 16, 2007 in the Harris Gallery.