Friday, December 10, 2010

HARVEY DUNN (1884 - 1952)

Harvey Dunn was a tall, muscular prairie farmer with a rare artistic gift. He started out plowing buffalo trails into farmland on the South Dakota frontier and ended up as one of the giants of the golden age of illustration.

A teacher at an a agricultural School noticed Dunn's talent and persuaded the 17 year old to travel to Chicago to train at the Art Institute. There he came to the attention of the legendary Howard Pyle, who brought Dunn to Wilmington Delaware where Pyle ran a school for gifted young illustrators. Among all of Pyle's talented students, Dunn was the young Prometheus who became inspired by Pyle's gift of teaching and passed it along to a whole new generation of artists, from Dean Cornwell and Mead Schaeffer to Saul Tepper and Harold von Schmidt. Dunn returned regularly to his South Dakota home for inspiration later in life.

Here are examples of Dunn's lovely work:

Until this week, Harvey Dunn was the last remaining giant among the "golden age" illustrators without a book memorializing his work. Howard Pyle, Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, J.C. Leyendecker, Dean Cornwell and others have substantial art monographs-- some of them have several.

I am happy to report that this gap has now been filled.

Walt Reed, the world's leading authority on illustration, has completed a splendid new book, Harvey Dunn: Illustrator and Painter of the Pioneer West. The book brings together an excellent collection of Dunn's art (367 plates, 294 of them in color) often with new photographs from the original paintings. I thought I knew Dunn's work, but this book came as a revelation to me (which is, I guess, a primary reason for reading a book). The book also presents Dunn's teaching methods and demonstrates the prodigious results of that teaching, with an illustrated selection of Dunn's more successful students.

I have always enjoyed Reed's writings for the integrity of his scholarship, the clarity of his prose, and especially for his impeccable judgment.

Just as sculptor Gutzon Borglum chiseled the faces of great presidents from the granite cliffs of South Dakota's Mount Rushmore, Walt Reed has done more than anyone else to define the Mt. Rushmore of great illustrators of the 20th century. His work is as solid and reliable as granite. I highly recommend his new book to everyone interested in this field.


positive affirmations said...

nice art works.., the works has a good details..,

Amy June Bates said...

Mort Drucker, Harvey Dunn and Walt're on a roll. I remember a great Harvey Dunn, a night scene with a cowboy standing in the shadow of a building with a cigarette glowing just enough.
Harvey Dunn taught Arnold Frieburg passing down that chain of illustration patriarchy.

MORAN said...

I have been waiting for this book for years. Is it finally out? Amazon still says it hasn't been released but I'd like to know before Christmas. Any new book from Walt Reed is a special event.

Laszlo said...

Hats off to Walt Kelly for a long overdue tome on Mr Dunn.Can you give some idea as to how extensive the chapter covering his method of painting is please.

अर्जुन said...

D.A., needless to say, I look forward to reading this book.

Anyone else keenly interested in Dunn would enjoy~ Circular of instruction of the school of drawing, painting, modelling ... By Art Institute of Chicago School**. It brings his pre-Pyle art circle to life.

**available via Google Books, the 1902 edition

some key names~ John H Vanderpoel, Karl Buehr, Harvey T Dunn, Lawrence Herndon, J D Gleason, Jessie Arms pre-Botke, Gerrit Beneker, Gerome, Bouguereau, Fleury, Boulanger, Lefebvre, Laurens, Constant, Sidney H. Riesenberg, Donna Schuster, Jaren Hiller (a.k.a. Lejaren Hiller, Sr./Lejaren à Hiller/John Arthur Hiller)

also of related Art Institute of Chicago interest, there is a nice site dedicated to AIC life drawing instructor Antonin Sterba, whose notable students include; Haddon Sundblom, Gil Elvgren, Howard Terpning, & Tom Ryan.

""how extensive the chapter covering his method of painting""
Squeeze a large amount of paint onto cardboard thereby removing excess oil. Transfer paint to palette. Trowel it onto canvas with knives and large bristle brushes. Thin with turpentine as needed.

Murray Tinkelman said...

David, FYI there is a pretty good book of Dunn's work that was published in 1970.

The Story of Harvey Dunn Artist, WHERE THE HEART Robert Karolevitz, North Plains Press, hard cover, 208 pages, Copyright 1970.


Shane White said...

Oddly enough being a fan of illustration art Harvey's work much of the time rubs me the wrong way. I think I have a hard time digesting the inconsistency in his work.

Some pieces are really strong in terms of composition and mood. Some strong mostly in the drawing only to be beaten down by the color choices or atmosphere over good painting. Many of his pieces look like he's beaten them into submission. Maybe there's something to be said for an artist who's work is inconsistent. Maybe he's choosing to not settle and his failures are up there with his successes for all to see.

Chronology might distinguish his artistic arc and help in this matter as well.

I'm hoping this book helps illuminate possibly what I'm missing about this much respected artist.


David Apatoff said...

Murray Tinkelman wrote: "FYI there is a pretty good book of Dunn's work that was published in 1970."

Murray, I have the Karolevitz book and I enjoyed it, but I don't view it in the same category with the full color art monographs on illustrators that began coming out in the 1970s (Schau's book on Leyendecker, Ludwig's book on Parrish, Allen's book on N.C. Wyeth, etc.) The Karolevitz book had an excellent biographical text but the sparse and largely inferior black and white illustrations are just not the same.

In his typical classy way, Reed writes in the new book, "This book will not attempt to cover the ground presented in the excellent biographical record compiled by Robert J. Karolevitz.... Instead, it will focus on the aesthetic spirit of the artist through his pictures and words."

David Apatoff said...

Amy June Bates: That is kind of a neat lineup, isn't it? Reed's book has a short section on Frieberg as a student of Dunn.

MORAN-- the book is out now. Get it for Christmas. have held it in my hands. It is a beautiful book, well put together.

Laszlo-- Reed devotes a large portion of the book to Dunn's own words, both his lectures and his letters to friends. He has 5 pages on how Dunn worked, 20 pages on Dunn as a teacher, and 40 pages of notes taken in Dunn's classroom.

David Apatoff said...

अर्जुन-- I think you will enjoy it. And you may be interested in Dunn's take on the Art Institute of Chicago. He did not think much of his intructors there, compared to Pyle.

Shane White-- I know what you mean. I have had mixed reactions to some of Dunn's work myself. But as you flip through 100 color pictures, it will fill in a lot of blank spaces. I respected Dunn before, but I think far more of him now. It was, as I said in my post, a "revelation."

chuck pyle said...

The book premiered at the Academy of Art University School of Illustration, and the feeding frenzy was quite a delight to watch. Too bad that Walt was not there to see it as he would have been well pleased. John Fleske was certainly happy! Moreover, my students and I are not happy, but indeed, thrilled! It has been bedside reading for a week, now. I have much to learn.
NOTE: Book availability is limited to the museum sponsor and Flesk Publications at present. Well worth the search!

kev ferrara said...

Since I quote Dunn on this blog constantly, it may come as no surprise that I am a rabid fan of his work. And that I am drooling at the prospect of getting this book.

To me, that race car picture, which I've never seen before, is an iron clad justification of the Brandywine method. That picture snarls and roars! Just a flat-out awesome delivery of the experience!

David Apatoff said...

Chuck Pyle-- I'm delighted to hear that the book got such a good reception. If Mr. Fleske was happy, he certainly deserves to be for his association with this book. I know Walt worked on it for many years and I'm glad he aligned with the right publisher.

Kev, I remember your references to Dunn. I think you will love this book; there were dozens of pictures such as that car picture that I had never seen before.

Tom said...

Hi David

Off topic; You and your readers might fine this post interesting weekend reading it is on a economic blog.

Nick Jainschigg said...

My copy arrived today, and I thoroughly concur with your assessment;-)

It's a gorgeous book that goes a long way toward filling in the gaps in my mental picture of Dunn's work--the style and color variations, etc.I haven't had time to read it yet (just looked at the pictures) but I'm still curious about some of his color choices--what I had presumed were reproductions from old plates because of the grayed greens and rusty reds seem to have been his actual colors. Now, whether they were determined by his free choice or by trying to stay within the capability of the available printing, I would love to know.

Eric Noble said...

You are definitely on a roll here on your blog. Valentin Serov, Mort Drucker, and harvey Dunn. I am in awe. I will have to count Harvey Dunn as a new inspiration. Thank you for sharing these with us. Where do you get all of these pictures?

BTW, would you like to look at the Olaf Gulbrannson pictures I've scanned on my blog?

David Apatoff said...

Nick Name wrote: "I'm still curious about some of his color choices--what I had presumed were reproductions from old plates because of the grayed greens and rusty reds seem to have been his actual colors."

Nick, I have often been surprised at the colors in the original paintings from those illustrators. Dean Cornwell used to do beautiful, full color oil paintings that were to be reproduced in black and white in Redbook. But they were all pros who understood color theory and had a very good idea of what they would have to do in order to achieve the effect they wanted in a magazine.

Eric Noble-- thanks, I'm glad you get the kind of pleasure out of these artists that I do. I had previously visited your site to see the Olaf Gulbrannson pictures and enjoyed them very much.

jaleen said...

Lovely tribute to both Dunn and Walt. Thanks.

I saw proofs of this book and it is full of plates. Worth getting for the eye candy alone, but it also brings to light new archival material on Dunn.

Unknown said...

yes, I went into illustration because
of the greatest talent that Italy had produced since Fortunino Matania,i am
talking about an artist called Giorgio De Gaspari a strange,genius,he went tho the Tibet and dropped illustration,now he lives in an small island close to Venice,almost like a clochard a real pity I have nevesr seen anybody so talented a real shame. Gaston Bettelli

Rossington said...

Does anyone think Dunn was more of an influence on Andrew Wyeth than his father was? I unfortunately had not come across Dunn until very recently. genius

barbie said...

I found 4 framed prints of Harvey Dunn today at a consignment shop for 3 dollars. I bought them because they were so unique but I would really like to know if they have any value.
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