Jack Bryant, American (1929 - 2012)


Jack Bryant (1929-2012) was well known regionally, statewide, and even in national Western Art circles. His work in painting, sculpture, and other creative mediums is valued highly by prominent people such as Larry Mahan, rodeo cowboy; John Justin of Justin Boots; and baseball player and entrepreneur Nolan Ryan, all of whom he immortalized in bronze.

A Bryant bronze that the city of Grapevine commissioned now stands in their 800-year-old sister city in Austria. Bryant was born April 4, 1929 in Fort Worth, where he grew up on the North Side in the stockyards area. That Western culture of cattle and horses may have shaped his desire to recreate them on canvas and in bronze, for he decided to be an artist when still a youngster in grade school. According to family, he drew pictures instead of studying, making his education incomplete.

Early in his career he drew murals on walls of businesses for a commission. As a result, at least one restaurant in Sansom Park and a grocery store in Azle, whose patrons enjoyed the Western scenes, lost the artwork when their buildings were sold and remodeled. As a teenager Bryant engaged in a couple of races with quarter horses, but his father made him stop because of the danger. He did allow him a horse, however, instead of a car, so he rode everywhere on horseback until age 21. As a result, his knowledge of horses allowed him later to draw them accurately.

At age 19, after someone gave him a box of oil paints and some canvas, Bryant sold his first painting for the sum of five dollars. As a young man Bryant worked at numerous jobs before he could earn his living with painting, but by the mid-1960s he was supporting his family by his artwork. He included many pictures of horses, buffalo and cattle in both his paintings and sculptures as well as landscapes and scenes of a pioneer past with farmhouses and windmills. Bryant told patrons that he envisioned a story of what was happening in each scene or sculpture, giving a name to each that described its mood or action.

Collectors have compared Bryant to famous Western artist Charlie Russell because both were self-taught Western men themselves and loved to work in a log cabin studio. Bryant built his own log workplace behind his house. His sculptures were in bronze, stone or wood, and he also created Western objects like turquoise jewelry, unique knives and tomahawks. Bryant donated many paintings and sculptures to charity.

Bryant was a member of the Texas Cowboy Artists Association and fared well in their shows and competitions as well as in others. He said his talent in painting, sculpture and silversmithing was “born in me.” He once told an interviewer that if he was in the mood, he could paint for 18 hours straight. “If I’m not in the mood, I just go fishing.”

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