The painting Jacks was completed by Alexandre Hogue in 1934/35 (Figure 1). Like Hogue’s other paintings created during the 1930’s, Jacks both confronts and accuses those who are responsible for the devastation occurring during the Dust Bowl. Jacks was first exhibited at the Alice Street Carnival in Dallas, Texas in June 1935 and was Hogue's first painting to portray the effects of the drought on wild animals. This painting was only recently discovered after being in a private collection for decades.
Figure 1. Alexandre Hogue, Jacks, 1934/1935, Egg Tempera/Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20 inches, Private Collection, Kansas City, Kansas.
This painting portrays the savage aftermath of a jackrabbit round up. Due to the extermination of predators such as coyotes by hunters between 1902 and 1930, jackrabbits began to flourish during the Dust Bowl. By 1931, over 8 million jackrabbits overflowed throughout the Dust Bowl regions consuming crops, fencing, and everything in sight. In an effort to control the destruction caused by these jackrabbits, states organized jackrabbit roundups. During these roundups, the jackrabbits would be herded into an enclosed fence and beaten to death with clubs by men and boys.
Through Jacks, Hogue unavoidably confronts the viewer with a pile of dead jackrabbits. The viewer’s gaze is directed towards the pile through the lines in the sand. The pile blocks the only exit out of the pen, morally penning the viewer inside of the fence. Like his other Erosion series paintings, Hogue uses what he calls “psycho-realism” to confront and accuse the viewer, placing us at the scene on the crime. Due to the fencing, we are denied an escape and unable to walk around the destruction. We have blocked ourselves in and there is no escaping our crime. Both the population explosion and the death of these jackrabbits were a result of man’s attempt to control nature and Hogue denies the viewer an escape from their actions. Jacks, like Drouth Stricken Area and Drouth Survivors, directly confronts the fatal consequences animals are forced to face as a result of man’s actions. Jacks is the only painting in the Erosion series to portray the devastating effects of the man’s actions on wild animals.
Like most of his Erosion series paintings, Jacks is undated yet the label on the back gives us an idea of when the painting might have been created. The label is from the 1935 Alice Street Carnival in Dallas, Texas. A 1935 article in the Dallas Morning News announced the upcoming carnival (Figure 2). The carnival was original scheduled for June 14 but was postponed to June 21 due to rain.
Figure 2. Dallas Morning News Article. June 21, 1935.
The label on the back of Hogue’s painting has the words “Alice St” written in with the original June 14 date crossed out and the updated date of June 21 added in below (Figure 3). The inclusion of the painting in the June 1935 carnival means the work would have most likely been completed in early 1935 or late 1934.
Figure 3. Jacks label. Back of painting.
During our research on Jacks, our attention was drawn to the shifting horizon line in Hogue’s paintings during the 1930’s. Around the time Hogue painted Jacks, he begins to shift the horizon line up in his paintings. Looking at his Erosion series paintings in the order they were created, Jacks may have been his first painting to have this new high horizon line. All of Hogue’s Erosion series paintings created after Jacks will have this high horizon line along the top of the canvas.
The striking similarity in the compositions combined with the exhibition labels for Wind Erosion and Jacks confirm they were created around the same time (Figure 4). Although dated 1933, Hogue completed Wind Erosion in 1935 and would later change the title to Dust Bowl in 1937. In both paintings, tracks in the sand lead the viewer to the opening in the fence. The viewer is invited to engage with the work and move inward at eye level.
Figure 4. Alexandre Hogue, Jacks, 1934/1935 and Alexandre Hogue, Wind Erosion, 1935.
While Jacks was being exhibited at the Alice Street Carnival, Hogue’s Wind Erosion was exhibited at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts at the same time. A Dallas Morning News article on June 2, 1935 announced the inclusion of the Wind Erosion in an upcoming exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (Figure 5). The article stated the exhibit will begin on June 12, 1935. The exhibition history of Jacks and Wind Erosion is compelling evidence that these two works were contemporary to one another in their creation.
Figure 5. “Wind Erosion,” Dallas Morning News, June 2, 1935.
The contemporary dating and strong similarities and between Jacks and Wind Erosion make a strong and irrefutable argument that Jacks is a part of Hogue’s Erosion series. Like Hogue’s other Erosion series paintings, this work boldly represents the faults and crimes of man that led to Dust Bowl. Due to Jack’s recent rediscovery a private collection, further information regarding the painting’s history and provenance will continue to emerge as new resources become available.
Russell Tether, President
Katherine Hillman, Associate
Russell Tether Fine Arts Associates, LLC