Circuit Rider

Circuit Rider
Merritt Mauzey
Inscribed on lower margin: “For Bishop O. Eugene Slater, with best wishes”
Gift of Bishop O. Eugene Slater, 1996

Merritt Mauzey (1897–1973) was associated with the Dallas Nine, a group of area artists, including Jerry Bywaters, Everett Spruce, Otis Dozier, Alexander Hogue, Allie Tennant, Octavio Medellín, Florence McClung, Ed Bearden, and others who responded more to the life and idiosyncrasies of their region than to modernist ideologies. The group was active during the 1930s and 1940s, and the artists made the most of opportunities offered by the Work Projects Administration. They held the murals, drawings, and paintings of Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco in strong affinity to their own aesthetic.

Mauzey was the last of nine children born into a family of cotton sharecroppers in the Edwards Plateau region of Texas. The family moved further west and bought property to farm in Nolan County. While in high school there Mauzey worked through a correspondence school program in art. He tried farming, but in 1927 Merritt and Margaret Mauzey, they had married in 1916, and eight-year-old Merritt, Jr. moved to Dallas. Merritt worked in a cotton export firm as clerk.

Mauzey entered Dallas Public Evening School, practicing printmaking under Frank Klepper, art director of the Southwest School of Fine Arts. He learned copperplate etching, but soon discovered lithography and became consumed with the process, sending his drawings to Philadelphia for printing until he was able to purchase his own lithographic stones and press. Mauzey’s images featured landscapes, many making strong reference to cotton farming, processing, and shipping which were intimately familiar to him. Others depicted Bible scenes as an expression of faith that grew out of Mauzey’s Presbyterian upbringing. In 1943 he left the cotton export firm for Firestone Rubber Company where he worked until 1962 while continuing his artistic production at a frenetic pace in the evenings. Beginning in 1955 Mauzey wrote and illustrated a series of children’s books published by Abelard-Schuman on farming, industry, and rural life: Texas Ranch Boy, Cotton-Farm Boy, Oilfield Boy, Rice Boy, Rubber Boy, and Salt Boy.

In 1970 Bridwell Library was recipient of a gift from Mauzey of drawings and lithographs including ninety-nine biblical scenes as well as other pictures. The collection was transferred to the Bywaters Special Collection of SMU’s Hamon Library in 2008 in order to place Mauzey’s work in closer context to that of his peers.