Brad Braune, a ‘Cornerstone’ of Texas Art (1951-2019)

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Courtesy / Ramin Samandari

Brad Braune died Thursday at the age of 68.

In San Antonio artist Brad Braune’s “first ever blog post” from August 2017, he wrote: “We are not concerned about the end result or whether anyone will be impressed by what we do.”

Braune died Thursday at the age of 68, leaving behind an impressive body of work as an architect, artist, and teacher.

“He’s definitely one of the cornerstones of art here in the city,” said Tony Pro, former executive director of the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts, where Braune taught watercolor classes.

That Pro used the present tense speaks to the enduring legacy of Braune’s art and teaching. His work has been shown widely and reproduced as posters for Fiesta, A Night in Old San Antonio, the Texas Folklife Festival, the Institute of Texan Cultures, and on the cover of the Frost Bros. department store’s 1981 Christmas catalog.

Though his chief legacy is as a watercolorist of “whimsical Western imagery,” as Braune himself once described his work, the lessons of his teaching will endure.

Onetime student Carolyn Peterson, a principal of Ford, Powell and Carson Architects and Planners, said Braune expertly conveyed the finer points of the difficult process of watercolor painting, but that his teaching went deeper.

“What he was doing on a higher level was supporting the creativity in the people that he was teaching,” she said. “Because creativity gets kicked in the you-know-what all the time in our culture, it gave a lot of people a chance to express themselves in a way that they knew was true and would be understood.”

An Abilene native, Braune graduated from Texas Tech University in 1974 with a degree in architecture. He relocated to San Antonio and worked as an architect first with the San Antonio Development Agency; the firm Cerna, Garza, and Raba; and finally with Ford, Powell and Carson before becoming a full-time artist in 1978.

“We were always asking him so much to do paintings of buildings, I think he finally decided to just go off and be a painter rather than an architect,” Peterson said.

Today, two of his works hang on her office wall, one of his famous prickly pear paintings, she said, and the other a gift she received from the observant artist. Braune had visited the Peterson home to see how she had hung one of his works, which she said can look quite abstract up close but reveal great detail at a distance. She said her cat took a liking to Braune, who later gave her a painting of the cat that he’d made while teaching a class.

“I didn’t realize he took a picture,” she said, noting his generosity.

Braune painted cats, birds, chickens, and nudes but is most known for his images of cowboys and South Texas life.

“One of the things I love about him is he did very well and accurately deeply express Texas, something essential about Texas in what he painted,” Peterson said. She mentioned Braune’s paintings of cactus burns, an important facet of West Texas ranch life during periods of drought. Ranchers burn the spines off of cacti so that their cattle can find succulent food to eat.

Braune worked continually to learn more and expand his horizons, Pro said. The two first met when Braune, twenty years his senior and already a “master artist,” signed up for Pro’s oil painting class. Braune had recently taken another oil painting class in Los Angeles.

Pro last spoke with Braune before the elder artist led a February art-making trip to India and Nepal and was stunned to learn of Braune’s death soon after his return to San Antonio. “We’re all still reeling. We can’t even process it,” Pro said of Braune’s friends and colleagues.

Braune’s death was unexpected and came as a shock to those who knew him. He had reportedly been mowing the lawn of his home and studio near North St. Mary’s Street Thursday, when his body was found by a neighbor. The cause of death has not yet been determined.

Braune had posted a watercolor image from the trip on his Instagram page on Thursday, as “Evening Class Demo 02/26/19.” Students responded with brief encomiums to their teacher. “Never such a talent as Brad. Never such a better person as Brad,” wrote one, and “Brad you’re influence will live on forever,” from another.

“His students just absolutely loved him. He was a fantastic teacher, a great teacher. He worked really well with people,” Pro said. “His class was wildly popular.”

Braune taught classes out of his own studio and at the Southwest School of Art and the Majestic Ranch Arts Foundation in Boerne, in addition to his work with the Coppini Academy, where he was a “pillar,” Pro said. The academy is already planning a retrospective exhibition of Braune’s work as a celebration of his life, Pro said.

San Antonio artist and teacher Chris Sauter, chair of painting and drawing at the Southwest School, wrote in an e-mail that “Brad was a talented and respected teacher here at Southwest School of Art. He had a long history teaching for the school well before I took the reins of department chair a few years ago. Although I was inexperienced, he treated me with the utmost respect. In every interaction I had with him, I was left with an impression of a kind and thoughtful person. His death is a great loss to SSA and to the art community of San Antonio. He will be missed.”

Charlotte Cox, board chair of the Coppini Academy, wrote, “I really will miss him, he did so much for the community. He was an icon of San Antonio.”

He had been scheduled to teach a workshop at the Coppini Academy in July. Noting the cancellation on its website, a statement from the academy reads, “I’m sorry to report that our favorite artist and friend passed away today the 28th Of February.”

“I’m heartbroken,” Peterson said.

27 thoughts on “Brad Braune, a ‘Cornerstone’ of Texas Art (1951-2019)

  1. It is said that only real men do watercolors. This is because they are so easy to ruin. The light in Brad’s watercolors is so persuasive and the interpretations are so bold, we are indeed missing the man.

    • He certainly was a master of the watercolor and I will admit that they are extremely difficult being an oil painter myself. It’s a very unforgiving medium and Brad knew how to control it with ease.

    • Said perfectly. Brad was a master artist and real man.
      Correction : CHARLOTTE COX is PRESIDENT of the Coppini Academy. Tony Pro is an instructor.

  2. Thank you Nicholas for writing such a wonderful story about our friend and teacher.
    May Brad’s memory be Eternal!

    • Thank you to Tony, and to all those writing in, for contributing to this story on an important San Antonio artist. I’m only sorry I didn’t have the chance to know him better, but I look forward to learning more about his work, life, and influence. Please feel free to continue sharing your Brad stories here!

  3. A wonderful article that highlights our cousins amazing talent and his love of creativity. He truly was a great inspiration to me as one of his 2nd cousins. He made an imprint in this world and will be great missed.
    Jessica Braune

  4. Thank you for this beautiful article and tribute to Brad…what a gentle soul and one of our great talents. I treasure the times we spent together, especially during the FPC days at King William Street. We were all truly blessed to have had him touch all of our lives in so many ways…as an icon, teacher and friend. Be with the angels, dear one!

  5. What a beautiful tribute to my beloved friend of forty four years! So many cherished memories! At times I was his ardent student ,his confidante , the advocate of his health, an avid collector of his work but above all I admired the mastery of his brush specially in his watercolors Also he was one of the nicest persons I ever met! Sensitive , compassionate , empathic; he had the ability to see through the problems I presented to him. He was adored by all his students ! In the early days at the Coppini he will sit next to me and mid class he will start his painting We all will leave our paintings and surround him Using very thick brushes and a lot of water I asked myself what will come of this and to my greatest surprise it was always a masterpiece …… I dedicated a room in my house totally for his paintings and to this day it remains my favorite and inspirational room. Talking to his beloved mother Verena a few days ago we concluded we were thankful to God for the time He gave him in this earthly existence ! Now my Bradley , you are in another level , the celestial one,but your masterful work,the great memories, your incisive teachings and your creativity will remain with us forever! Emilio F Romero, M.D.

  6. What a great loss for all who had the privileged of knowing him. His kind demeanor, his great artistic skill and talent and his noble character will be missed. May you R.I.P my friend.

  7. Thanks, Nicholas. Your editors should move this article “above the fold.” His work lives in this community’s bones! I’m so sad I never managed to meet or learn directly from Braune, because his Folklife posters were among my earliest artistic inspirations.

  8. I have never met an individual of your caliber! You were a rock star when we met and have continued in a total Brad Braune fashion through out you life. You have touched many and will be greatly missed … although NEVER forgotten my friend! Gene Lands

  9. As Brads eighty six year old uncle i will remember him as a sweet little cubby boy. We will miss you. Will be a big void in our lives

  10. I treasured my Tuesday afternoon painting classes with Brad. It was fascinating to follow his process and see his paintings suddenly spring to life. He was so very talented and an excellent teacher. I will miss him terribly.

  11. Very sad to know I will never be able to see Brad paint again, and will miss his inspiration and friendship greatly.

  12. I’m heartbroken to learn of Brad’s passing. He was–is–my favorite artist and a wonderful teacher and kind friend. He will be sorely missed by many.

  13. I met Brad as a result of our mutual love and support of the students at NESA (North East School of the Arts). Brad was so kind and humble and always willing to help out with his time, talents and gifts of art. We remained friends after our link to NESA ended. I am sad, but chose to celebrate his life and remember the happy memories. Till we meet again.

  14. I took lessons from Brad for about a year and was all set to return when I heard the incredibly sad news. Brad had a talent for creating paintings that often did not fully blossom until they were practically finished, and then boy did they shine.
    He was patient, caring, encouraging, and infinitely easy to like, admire, joke with, and learn from. He will be very missed. God bless Brad Braune.

  15. Brad Braune was what most of us would like to become. He was a fine artist , a fine man and a fine teacher who was one of the kindest humans I ever met. I will forever regret not spending time in Nepal with him in his last days. He was my friend, my teacher and his art was sold in our gallery. Every aspect of our dealings was a trouble-free pleasure. I wish all of life could be as easy as being with Brad

  16. Whatba beautiful tribute to this beautiful soul. I was blessed to know Brad for 30 years. I’m sadden beyond belief he’s no longer with us in the physical world. His untimely passing is a tremendous loss for all who knew him. He’s left behind a beautiful legacy with his art. I can say he was one of the kindest, generous, selfless man I knew. The last time I saw Brad was at his Holiday Open House last December. He never looked so good and was very happy. I will miss you to the moon and back Brad! I love you. My deepest condolences to his family, friends and to the San Antonio art community. Our loss is heavens gain.

  17. As a young architecture student at Texas Tech in the early 70’s I remember the then already kegendary talent of Brad Braune.
    His remarkable talent was matched by his generosity of spirit. He was always kind with encouragement and advice and it was obvious then, he was a born teacher.

    I remember he would allow me to hang on his drafting board, watching as he produced the final presentation of his thesis project….. a modern dairy operation near his hometown. I remember watching in awe as he would simply place a loaded brush to blank paper and a perfect milk cow would appear.

    Rest In Peace, Brad

  18. Brad was a wonderful friend and inspiration. I’ve collected his paintings for more than 25 years, and I will cherish them now more than ever.
    I recall visiting him at his studio a few months ago, and I told him if I could paint like him, my head would get so big it would explode.
    Godspeed, Brad. See you on the other side.

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