Granville Bruce will forever be known for his depictions of Texas’s natural history, landscapes and varied architecture. Though not a Texas native, he was smitten with the state, saying in 1982, “I love this state. I just love to record historic things in it. I love its history, scenery, and people.”
Bruce was born in Grand Island, Nebraska and was raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There, he attended the Layton School of Art. Bruce later studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. He moved to Texas in 1924, settling in San Antonio.
While he was living in San Antonio, Bruce studied under Hugo Pohl, a mural decorator, painter of historical and genre subjects, and director of the San Antonio Academy of Art. The two artists eventually built a studio in the late 1920s near San Antonio’s Brackenridge Park. Bruce was successful in San Antonio. In 1929, he submitted a painting to the 1929 San Antonio Competitive Exhibition, in the same year he exhibited at the Davis Wildflower Competition, and in 1930 he had a solo exhibition at San Antonio’s Witte Museum.
In 1930, Bruce married Ula Lee Mead, the sister of fellow artist Ben Carlton Mead, and the couple moved to Dallas. There, Bruce did illustrations for Holland’s Magazine, Progressive Farmer and other publications. He also illustrated several books on Western history. In addition, Bruce did work for the Public Works of Art Project, an initiative designed to employ artists during the Great Depression. Bruce painted PWAP murals for at least 2 Texas high schools. His work as an illustrator and a PWAP artist did not keep him from his easel paintings; he exhibited at Dallas Allied Arts in 1932 and at the State Fair of Texas in 1934.
In the 1930s, Bruce began painting diorama backgrounds for the Dallas Museum of Natural History and became the museum’s staff artist.
Bruce was both remarkably productive and successful during the late part of his career. In 1963, he painted 6 watercolors of Texas Missions, which were eventually presented to the Texas State Library. He also painted a mammoth, 68-foot panoramic mural for the Texas Fish and Game Commission. Bruce continued to paint cityscapes, architectural projects and historical subjects.
The Dallas Museum of Natural History hosted Bruce’s last exhibition in 1982. He died in 1989.
Granville Bruce’s atmospheric and evocative depictions of Texas’s rugged terrain, vibrant history and distinctive inhabitants made a lasting and significant impact on the history of Texas painting.