Frank X. Tolbert 2, 1945 – 2023

by Jessica Fuentes July 20, 2023

Frank X. Tolbert 2, a Texas artist known for his depictions of regional birds, died on Thursday, July 13, 2023 at the age of 77.

Installation View, Left: Frank X. Tolbert, Chicken Hawk, 2015, Oilstick and graphite on paper, 60 x 44 in. and Right: Frank X. Tolbert, High Island Rookery, 2015, oil on paper, 80 x 140 in.

Installation view, left: Frank X. Tolbert, Chicken Hawk, 2015, Oilstick and graphite on paper, 60 x 44 in.; right: Frank X. Tolbert, High Island Rookery, 2015, oil on paper, 80 x 140 in.

Perhaps best known for his Texas Bird Project series, a decade-long project depicting native Texas birds, Mr. Tolbert’s artistic career stretched over 50 years. He began the Texas Bird Project in 2014, when the Flatbed Center for Contemporary Printmaking commissioned him to create eight etchings of birds. This print project expanded to include drawings and paintings of a wide range of birds, including egrets, crows, herons, jays, and pelicans. 

A photograph of artist Frank X. Tolbert 2 in his studio.

Frank X. Tolbert 2. Photo courtesy of Flatbed Press & Gallery.

In a recent announcement, Flatbed shared about their work with Mr. Tolbert 2: “A great artist and friend to Flatbed, Frank brought his magical way of interpreting the world into the printmaking sphere. We got to know and love him during his many projects at Flatbed. As a painter, he stepped out of his comfort zone into a fishbowl of printmaking zeal and then shook it for all it was worth when he created his Texas Bird Suite of eight large color etchings 2015-2018.”

A photograph of artist Frank X. Tolbert 2.

Frank X. Tolbert 2. Photo by and courtesy of Ann Stautberg.

Mr. Tolbert 2 was born in Washington D.C. on December 17, 1945 to Frank X. and Kathleen (Kay) Tolbert. At the time, his father was a journalist and a Marine, stationed as a guard at the White House. When Mr. Tolbert 2 was young, the family moved to Lubbock and then Dallas, where his father was a longtime columnist for the Dallas Morning News. At the age of nine, Mr. Tolbert 2 joined his father on a road trip around the perimeter of Texas, which was his first experience of the diversity of the state’s ecosystems. 

The following year, Mr. Tolbert 2 took art lessons with Otis Dozier at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (now the Dallas Museum of Art) when it was located at Fair Park. Throughout his life, his art continued to be inspired by Mr. Dozier and the other Dallas-based regionalist artists known as the Dallas Nine, among other influences.

In a 2018 interview with Texas Highways Tolbert explained his connection with the state: “I’ve lived all of my life in Texas, and I feel like my art is sort of a visual diary where the folklore of Texas and my personal life are inseparably intertwined. But I’ve also traveled a lot in Mexico, and I see my work as kind of a combination of Otis Dozier’s Wild West heroism and Rufino Tamayo’s magical realism.”

Mr. Tolbert 2 attended Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas and then went on to study art at Texas Tech University in Lubbock from 1964 to 1969 and at North Texas State (now the University of North Texas) in Denton from 1969 to 1970. During the 1970s, Mr. Tolbert 2 exhibited his work at various galleries in Dallas, where he and his father launched the family business, Tolbert’s Chili Parlor. In 1975, through mutual friends, he met his future wife, artist Ann Stautberg, who was also living in Dallas at the time. The pair married in 1978, and that same year they exhibited their work together at DW Gallery in Dallas. The couple later moved to Houston, where they have been important figures in the local art scene.

A series of photograph of artists and romantic couple Ann Stautberg and Frank X. Tolbert by Allison V. Smith.

Ann Stautberg and Frank X. Tolbert 2. Photo courtesy Ann Stautberg.

Mr. Tolbert 2’s work has been exhibited in solo shows at galleries and venues throughout the state, including William Campbell Gallery in Fort Worth; Kirk Hopper Fine Art, the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, and Eugene Binder Gallery in Dallas; Moody Gallery in Houston; the Galveston Arts Center; and beyond. Additionally, Mr. Tolbert 2’s work is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Witte Museum in San Antonio, the University of Texas at Austin, and Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

Mr. Tolbert 2’s most recent solo presentation, Live Wire, was presented by William Campbell Gallery; the exhibition showcased the artist’s depictions of grackles. Recently, Mr. Tolbert 2 and Mrs. Stautberg exhibited their work together for the first time since 1978. The show, Ann Stautberg – Frank X. Tolbert 2, was presented by Andrew Durham Gallery in Houston and closed at the end of April.

Mr. Durham told Glasstire, Frank was part of the pulse of the Texas art scene; he was a phenomenal story teller both verbally and through his work. His use of graphite and oil stick combining raw, sometimes erratic yet meaningful lines blended seamlessly with the bright and dark colors of his work. He was a sponge, always absorbing the world surrounding him, and giving it his X2 twist filled with humor and ambiguity. He was a fearless artist who would take risks in the pursuit of expressing himself through his work.


In lieu of flowers, Mrs. Stautberg has asked that donations in memory of Mr. Tolbert 2 be made to Glasstire.


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Cary July 20, 2023 - 08:42

My deepest condolences to Ann. I always enjoyed seeing she and Frank around town. I loved his sly wit and wonderful art. He will truly be missed.

Shane Tolbert July 20, 2023 - 11:54

Frank was such a supporter of my work from the very beginning. He and Ann came to a group show I was in at Tha Joanna across the street from the Rothko Chapel. 2007, I think? He introduced himself, congratulated me and we talked about kin and tried to connect the dots between us. Frank and Ann came out again last year for Blood Harmony at McClain. We swapped stories about life in northern New Mexico and Frank told me about his time in Taos during the “back to the land” movement in the 1970s. Very counterculture. Very utopian. Think Dennis Hopper Mud Palace years. It seems to me that Frank’s life and art have always been in the mix. My deepest condolences to Ann, Kathleen and the entire family. God speed, Frank. Thank you for everything.

Alex Troup July 21, 2023 - 22:17

It’s been a long.journey and 1977 is when the Chili parlor began and then getting to know artist at first Bob Trammell then later Roxy Gordon and then the decade fell in place…. it’s sad but it’s good we had a great time despite…. Frank thanks…A.T

Annette Carlozzi July 21, 2023 - 15:05

Frank was one of the most vivid people I ever met in Texas. He and Ann were luminous together, exuding curiosity and flirtations, but deeply connected to one another and to each other’s visions of the world. His art captured the details of life all around us with so much verve, energy and eros that you could barely frame it. RIP. Mr X, I miss you already, and am so gratified that we could work together a tiny bit over the years.


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