James Ferdinand McCan Painting a Historical Portrait of Texas, 1895–1925

James Ferdinand McCan Painting a Historical Portrait of Texas, 1895–1925

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The recent rediscovery of the art of James Ferdinand McCan tells the story of the people, landscape, wildlife, and livestock of Texas at beginning of the twentieth century. McCan, an Irish immigrant, was popular with art enthusiasts in a rapidly changing Texas, but, to date, his works remain in private homes. He saw Texas through the eyes of a non-native explorer as if he was making a great discovery about the unique beauty of the terrain, people, and creatures great and small. In collaboration with his first major art exhibition at the Witte Museum, James Ferdinand McCan: Painting a Historical Portrait of Texas, 1895–1925 reveals McCan’s observations as he illustrated the beauty of his adopted region just as Texas art began to surge in popularity. 

M. M. McAllen, Director of Humanities at the Witte Museum is the Curator of the Spring 2021 McCan art exhibition and author of the accompanying book. McAllen was raised on a storied South Texas ranch. Her previous three books include the award-winning and best-selling I Would Rather Sleep in Texas (2003); A Brave Boy and a Good Soldier: John C. C. Hill and the Texas Expedition to Mier (2006); and Maximilian and Carlota: Europe’s Last Empire in Mexico (2014). She has appeared on the PBS series History Detectives and contributed to Henry Louis Gate’s Faces of America. After earning her M.A. in history, she taught as an adjunct professor of history at the University of Texas at San Antonio and recently served as president of the Texas State Historical Association.