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News — Wittliffs Donate Statue


Public statue donated to Texas State by Collections founders Bill & Sally Wittliff

Vaquero: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy photographs by Bill Wittliff also on view

When Texas moved into the cattle business, its cowboys adopted much of the equipment and methodologies that Mexico’s vaqueros had used for centuries to work herds in big country. Over the course of three years in the early 1970s, Austin writer and photographer—and founder, with his wife, Sally, of the Alkek Library’s Wittliff Collections—Bill Wittliff went into the field to capture scenes of some of the last traditional roundups on the vast Rancho Tule in northern Mexico. Wittliff focused his lens on all aspects of this vanishing way of life, fixing the vaquero tradition forever in nearly 5,000 photographs. He printed a fine cross-section of these for exhibition, and the University of Texas Press published them in Vaquero: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy in 2004.

Inspired by Wittliff’s photographs, Philadelphia sculptor Clete Shields (who also created Austin’s Willie Nelson statue) designed a bronze vaquero, who stands by his saddle, wearing chaps and holding his quirt. Scenes of vaqueros working and living in the chaparral are sculpted in relief on three sides of the pedestal; a conversation between Wittliff and a vaquero is inscribed on the front. Recently the Wittliff Collections proudly unveiled the three-foot maquette of this impressive work, and it is now on view.


The Vaquero statue itself, in bronze and standing over 18 feet high, will be dedicated in a public ceremony on the university campus in Old Main Plaza at 4:00 pm on April 25, 2013. Bill and Sally Wittliff are donating this larger monument to Texas State in celebration of the rich and enduring heritage Texas shares with Mexico.


From April 19 through July 7, 2013, the Collections are reprising Bill Wittliff’s photography exhibition Vaquero: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy, which is on tour with Humanities Texas. The public is invited to view the images and maquette that inspired Texas State’s newest piece of public art. Admission is free.


From Los Brutos, the Vaquero series, © 1971, Bill Wittliff

From the series Los Brutos, Vaquero: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy, © 1970s, Bill Wittliff