FREDERICK CARTER (1925-2010)
Frederick T. Carter was born and raised in Dickinson Bayou and Galveston Proper. In the beginning, as always, he was an observer. He did not speak until the age of 4 and when he did, it was in complete sentences. When asked why he didn’t speak for so long, he simply said, “I had nothing to say to anyone.” While living in Dickinson Bayou, he had a Shetland pony that used to follow him around with its nose in his pockets. Someone had also given the family an old circus baboon. This baboon was mean to everyone except Freddy, it used to play with him and sit in the sycamore tree and groom him.
Art ran through his veins from the beginning. In grade school he won 1st prize in an art contest in Galveston at his school. As1st prizewinner, he was flown to Houston. He was not only into drawing and painting-one of his great loves was to build ship models and dioramas of train stations and old country stores. He used to talk his mom into letting him stay home from school sick so that he could work on his ship models.
At the age of 18, in 1943 he joined the Navy and served in WWII until 1946. He then started college at Texas A & M, majoring in Architecture (Texas A & M’s collection of art has a Frederick Carter painting). He probably originally chose Architecture because of his love of period architecture, old missions and churches with their beautiful magnificence. He soon switched his major, and graduated with honors from the Franklin School of Professional Art in New York in 1949. Sadly, the school is no longer in existence.
In the early 50’s, he found his way back to Texas and was commissioned to travel around the state sketching and painting the various oil fields of Texas. It is said that Joseph Kennedy, owner of one of the oil wells Mr. Carter painted, bought that painting from Mr. Carter. Another notable person who bought some of his artwork was actor Cornell Wilde. Mr. Wilde bought one of Mr. Carter's early oil paintings, a Big Top Circus painting.
In 1957 Mr. Carter moved to El Paso, Texas, where he fell in love with the bright sunshine and his wife, Dorothy Carter. He began work in El Paso as a commercial artist, working as Art Director for Mithoff Advertising. He became mainly an artist of the “Fine Arts”, however he did do free-lance advertising and logos throughout his distinguished career.
He was very proud of his work; however, he was publicity-shy and did not like to talk much about his work. He preferred that people make take away their own interpretations of his work.
He began painting in oils, but eventually, after moving to El Paso, moved on to acrylics and never went back to anything else. He once said that was because acrylics were the only paints that he could get the exact bright colors he wanted from mixing many different colors together. Indeed, there is not another artist that has been able to reproduce his unique colors or style. His most well known subjects were El Paso Street Scenes, El Paso and Juarez Mercado’s, Missions of El Paso, Santa Fe, and Taos, and last but not least “The old Iron Horses of the West” (Trains and Train depots). However, maybe less well known were his beautiful seascapes, which included shrimp boats and dry docked tugboats.
The ship models he built were a true work of art and he donated several to the Old Nemitz museum in Fredericksburg, TX. Even though he lived in the El Paso Sunshine for more than 40 years, he was inexplicably drawn back to the ocean on many occasions. Perhaps it was due in large to his upbringing in the Galveston/Dickinson Bayou area.
Mr. Carter illustrated several covers for Leon Metz and Frank Mangan books. He did illustrations throughout a few of these books. The one book that he illustrated the cover and illustrations throughout the book was Bordertown. The books for which he illustrated the covers were Bordertown revisited, The Pipeliners, El Paso In Pictures, El Paso Guided Through Time, and Desert Army: Fort Bliss. He also authored and did the illustrations for three books, only one of which was self-published. The Depot is a fictional short story set in the West in the 1800’s, which also includes true historical facts surrounding the El Paso Depot. The other two books that he authored and illustrated (which have not been published) are "The Streets of El Paso-a collection of many different short fictional stories and "Aces Up"-a fictional work about a fighter pilot in WWII. Aces Up was written in memory of Major Raymond S. Carter (Fred's older brother), Jr., 435 Fighter Squadron-479th Fighter Group. Raymond was shot down in 1944 and his body never recovered. The book is also in memory of the rest that never returned.
His many accomplishments earned him a listing in Who’s Who in American Art, he was twice commissioned by the Ford Motor Company to do paintings they used on the cover of their national travel magazine. He was the first El Pasoan to be selected as Texas State Artist of the year in 1994-1995 in the two-dimensional category. His paintings have been exhibited at many museums of note including the El Paso Museum, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Witte Memorial Museum of San Antonio, Isaac Delgado Museum of New Orleans, National Arts Club of New York, and the National Academy Galleries of New York.
Mr. Carter definitely fit the personality type of a true artist. He was most assuredly eccentric throughout his life. He was a gentle soul with a wonderful sense of humor (albeit somewhat off the wall). He was just an all around exceptional man. He will be sorely missed by many; however, his beautiful, colorful, unique work lives on.
His signature saying sums him up, “May your days be filled with sunshine and all the brightest colors of the rainbow”.