Cynthia Brants, artist

June 20, 1924 – January 11, 2006




photo courtesy of Hood County News

Cynthia Brants is described by longtime friend and author, John Graves, as a versatile artist with a “lifelong compulsion to experiment radically with forms, subjects and materials.“ He further describes her as somewhat of a “maverick” in her approach to the arts and to life.  Influenced early by the work of Cezanne and later by Braque, Klee, and Picasso, Cynthia’s quest was to take a brave step further in her work as she continued a lifelong dialogue with Cubism in contributing to the history of art.


Kurt Roesch, her mentor, friend, and instructor, speaking of the era of Cynthia’s work wrote,  “At the present, painting will need the work of artists who again walk out of their studios, and look at their surroundings, and catch the light, and the nuance of implication, and altogether do not neglect to respond to external stimuli without being instructed by sociological or existential conjectures.  Cynthia Brants is such an artist….”


The Executive Director of the Old Jail Art Center in Albany, Texas, Margaret Blagg, comments on the artist’s work, “Brants’s fertile intellect produced subject matter that runs the gamut from mythological subjects, to floral still life and landscapes represented in refracted form, to bucolic and genre scenes depicted in evolving styles.  Above all, she was dedicated to the tenets of Cubism, a style created by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque a full forty years before she began her career.  Brants’s paintings give a nod to Cubism, but are fully her own.”


Daughter of Harry E. Brants and Elizabeth Humble Brants, Cynthia grew up with all the cultural advantages of the fine arts and the theater afforded a prominent family in Fort Worth, Texas.  She was also introduced to equestrian training, which led her to love of working with horses as well as drawing, riding, and schooling them.


As a young child, she was interested in drawing and painting, persuading her parents to enroll her in Saturday classes at the Fort Worth School of Fine Art at about age ten.  There, under the tutelage and encouragement of Blanche McVeigh and others (Sallie Gillespie, Evaline Sellors, Wade Jolly, and Sallie Blyth Mummert), she was exposed to drawing in charcoal and pencil, painting in watercolor and oils, and printmaking, an art medium she continued to perfect until her death. 


Some of her fellow classmates in the Saturday classes—Bill Bomar, Bror Utter, and Veronica Helfensteller—also pursued careers in art.  In the 1940s and 50s they, along with Cynthia and others, became members of a group of artists who came to be known as The Fort Worth Circle.  In 2001 writings, Brants speaks of the Circle as a group of artists, working individually, who shared “enthusiasm for all of the fine arts, coming together socially or in mutual endeavors…in the process of introducing different facets of Modernism to Fort Worth as we broke away from regional subjects and 19th century

perspectives.”  Other notable artists of the Circle included her instructors from the Fort Worth School of Fine Art as well as Dickson Reeder, Flora Blanc Reeder, McKie Trotter, Kelly Fearing, Lia Cuilty, Marjorie Johnson Lee, James (Jack) Boynton, Charles Williams, Gene Owens, Emily Guthrie Smith, George Grammer, and Olive Pemberton, among others. 


Cynthia left Fort Worth Arlington Heights High School to spend her junior and senior years in boarding school at the Madeira School in Greenway, Virginia. Following graduation from Madeira, on the advice of her painting teacher, she spent the next four years at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, one of the few colleges to offer a major in art.  There, she had the unique opportunity to study with Kurt Roesch, a working painter and former master in the Berlin Academy whose teacher had been Karl Hofer.  Through Roesch she received additional instruction from other eminent European refugees in the art world of New York, such as Curt Valentin of the Buchholz Gallery, Karl Nierendorf (Paul Klee’s dealer,) and Dr. Daniel Henry Kahnweiler (dealer and biographer of Juan Gris among others.)  In a 2006 interview, speaking of this time, Cynthia states, “At the tender age of 19, I met and chatted with Andre Masson and Lionel Feininger.”


As a student at Sarah Lawrence, Cynthia was recommended to William Stanley Hayter’s Atelier 17 at the New York School for Social Research where Hayter had relocated from Paris, another haven for the displaced artists of Europe.  There the young woman was exposed to such famous artists as Marc Chagall, Jacques Lipchitz, Abraham Rattner, along with the less well known at the time—Andre Racz, Mauricio Lasansky, and Ian Hugo, (Anais Nin’s husband.)


Following graduation from Sarah Lawrence College and the end of World War II, Cynthia traveled extensively in Europe, absorbing and cultivating her love of the arts.  She also established her first studio in Fort Worth, where she worked until 1979 when she relocated permanently to Granbury, Texas.  In Granbury, she established a working studio and assisted singer and actress JoAnn Miller as scenic designer and painter in the renovation and rebirth of The Granbury Opera House.  During the early 1950s she taught children’s classes at the Fort Worth Children’s Museum (now the Museum of Science & History) and the Fort Worth Museum Art Center (now the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth).


In 1958 Cynthia was asked to teach painting and drawing at Sarah Lawrence College, substituting for Kurt Roesch while he took a leave of absence.  She was there until 1962 and during that time had the good fortune to have Ansei Uchima and Ezio Martinelli as mentors and colleagues.  She filled another academic position at Texas Woman's University in Denton Texas where she taught painting and drawing during the year 1972-73.  She also worked on her postgraduate studies in bookbinding with Mariana Roach and took photography and gravure with Nicholas Dean at the Fort Worth Art Museum.


From the 1930s to the 1970s Cynthia spent summers near Gloucester, Massachusetts and Wiscasset, Maine, sketching and painting watercolors.  She continued her travels, honing

her talent with sketching trips to Mexico, and across the United States to the Pacific Northwest and around Texas.  From 1960 to 1972 she painted a number of commissioned portraits in Connecticut, Texas, and Maine.


Cynthia was presented to her Majesty, the Queen Mother at the presentation of her commissioned portrait of Lady Reading to the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service in London in 1972.


Her work resides in many public collections, including:  the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Dallas Museum of Art, Princeton University, St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, the Madeira School, the Old Jail Art Center, and the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service in London.  Her works are also found in private collections internationally.


One-woman shows and group exhibitions include the Fort Worth Art Museum, Bodley Gallery in New York, as well as galleries on the East Coast.   She also showed in other galleries and museums across Texas, Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Albany, and Granbury.


For almost 70 years, Cynthia pursued painting and printmaking with a deep seriousness of purpose.  Blagg commented about her life in art, “With few exceptions, Cynthia Brants sketched, drew, painted, sculpted, or did print- or set-making each day of her life for sixty-plus years.  It’s a good bet that on the days when she couldn’t at least make a sketch, she was thinking about something she wished to try, or was recording a thought about an aspect of her work.”  Cynthia also worked in metal casting, jewelry, and model making, experimenting in adapting commercial gravure techniques.  Among other endeavors, she illustrated for the books “Decoration: U.S.A.“ and “Decorating Defined” by Wilson & Leaman, and produced specialty pieces for the Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalogues.  Her efforts in developing new printmaking techniques for a dying art form continued throughout her life.  “The goal has been, and continues to be, reproducing predominately painterly images in the attempts to make good prints,” she wrote.


Cynthia Brants died on Wednesday, January 11, 2006 in Fort Worth, Texas.  Until the time of her death at the age of 81, she was actively producing both paintings and prints from a painting studio at home and a printmaking studio in her gallery in downtown Granbury.

Compiled by  Dr. Veriena Braune, Ed.D. from writings by Margaret Blagg and archived interviews with Cynthia Brants