H. Clay Dahlberg

had his sights set on becoming a cowboy right from the beginning. He was, after all, a Texas boy who had been born in San Antonio and would grow up in the Houston area. But while most city-born Texas boys were content with toy guns, stickhorses and Saturday matinees, Clay Dahlberg went after the real thing. He had a Cotulla connection…an ancestral attachment to the South Texas brush country where the real cowboys came from.

Clay Dahlberg's childhood experiences from the summers he spent on a ranch near the small Texas town of Cotulla marked him for life. He absolutely idolized his great-grandfather, B. J. Pate, who seemed to have been born to be a brushpopper, as was his son, Clay's Uncle Roy.

These were his heroes…not the flimsy illusion of fiction, but the rough-hewn reality of ranch life and of men made for hard country and horses. The impressions and images Clay Dahlberg carried away from Cotulla would last for a lifetime. They would become the critical core of his art.

The road to becoming an artist is a tough trail to travel. Charlie Russell had been a poorly paid horse wrangler on an open range cow outfit before picking up his paintbrush. Clay Dahlberg rodeoed, worked as a feed salesman, and learned to shoe horses long before he ever entertained the idea of being an artist. It was a chance encounter with a sculptor of western subjects at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, around 1970, which first fired his imagination and put him on the path toward a career in fine art.

He studied and struggled at the outset to learn the technical aspects of his new calling. But real art resides in the heart, and his was brimful and overflowing with enough ideas and inspiration for a whole barn full of bronzes. The creative impetus of Clay Dahlberg's art was, from the first, to commemorate his own horseback heritage in a tribute to western tradition.

Clay Dahlberg has received his share of critical acclaim and western art accolades over the years. But he has never sought out, or needed, the endorsement of critics and connoisseur collectors. His art is aimed at an audience of cowboys and the kind of folks who have a history with horses. And that audience has been there for him with encouragement and in strong support for thirty years and then some.

As Clay's command of the sculptural medium has grown over the years, so too has his range of subject matter. From his initial focus on cowboys and horses, his interests have expanded to include not only those familiar favorites, but also a complete panoply of fresh ideas from both the historical and contemporary west.

His recent creations include everything from a delicate pair of miniature spurs to the monument-size composition called "Wild Men and Wild Cattle". Native American warriors, Mexican pistoleros, hunters, fishermen, ranch kids, old men with the memories…and his heroes with big hats and horses…are all presented with pride as characters in Clay Dahlberg's continuing celebration of the spirit of the west.

Dahlberg's work is in private schools and public collections in the United States and Europe. He was chosen to exhibit in the first all-sculpture show held at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center. His work was among that of ten artists used to illustrate "XIT, The American Cowboy." His sculpture, "In a Storm" was awarded the Best of Show award at the Texas Cowboy Artists Association Annual Award Exhibition in 1974 and he was invited by the American Revolution Bicentennial Committee to represent the state of Texas in Philadelphia in 1976.

Commissions include:
  • Life size portrait bust - Courthouse Square - Georgetown, Texas
  • 7' tall sculpture entitled "Rough Men and Tough Times" Y.O. Ranch Hotel, Kerrville, Texas
  • Life size standing figure, portrait of Col. E.S.C. Robertson, Salado Texas
  • Life size portrait bust of Homer Bryce, Stephen F. Austin University, Nacogdoches, Texas

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Related Links:

  • Photography:
    • Kaye Marvins - Houston, Texas
    • John McCaine - Houston, Texas
    • White Oak Studio - Fredericksburg, Texas
  • Text:
    • Don Hedgpeth - Medina, Texas

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