Art in the Archives – The Fondren Library of Rice Institute (1952)


Hanging over a desk near the Carroll and Harris Masterson Texana Collection is a pastel/multi- media drawing of Fondren Library in 1952. The drawing is a view facing the library from the quad, showing the cloisters, the ornamental shrubs and cypress trees, and the statue of William Marsh Rice.

The library was not identified in the original Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson General Plan for the Institute; instead, a temporary space was created in Lovett Hall (the Administration Building.) This space became inadequate by the 1920’s, but it was not until the 1940’s that the Institute initiated planning for a library. In 1946 Ella Cochrum Fondren and her children donated the money for construction of the library in memory of Walter W. Fondren, co-founder of the Humble Oil & Refining Company. John F. Staub, one of Houston’s influential architects and a student of Cram’s at MIT, designed the building, the first on the Rice campus with air conditioning. Fondren Library opened in 1949, three years before creation of the drawing.

The mixed media/pastel was created by Texas artist Edward Muegge “Buck” Schiwetz (1898-1984). Schiwetz studied architecture at Texas A & M, but never practiced. After a year studying in New York at the Art Students League he returned to Texas, founded an advertising firm and began exhibiting his art. Schiwetz generally chose historic buildings, oilfields, and natural scenes in Texas as his subject. He exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the American Watercolor Society, the Philadelphia Watercolor Society, the Architecture League of New York, and the Library of Congress; by 1948 he had one-man shows in five Texas museums. In 1966 he left advertising to focus solely on art. We don’t know the story of Schiwetz’s drawing of Fondren Library, but would love to hear about it if you know more.

3 thoughts on “Art in the Archives – The Fondren Library of Rice Institute (1952)

  1. It seems that E.M. Schiwetz had a prior familiarity with the library building. Front-page articles in the May 9 and May 16, 1946, Threshers mention that he (“the competent and well-known local delineator”) made “excellent drawings” of the preliminary designs for the proposed library and classroom buildings that were published in one of the final issues of the “Owl” magazine. They “were the result of one day’s quick sketching.”

    Possibly those early drawings were done for the architect, but led the artist to have an interest in sketching it after it was completed? Or might the Rice administration commissioned the artwork?

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