Editor's note: The following essay, which appeared in the catalogue for the 1991 exhibition titled " W. Herbert Dunton: A Retrospective," is rekeyed and reprinted (without illustrations) with permission of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum If you have questions or comments regarding the essay, or wish to obtain a copy of the catalogue, please contact the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum directly through either this phone number or web address:


W. Herbert Dunton and American Art

by Michael Grauer, Curator of Art, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum


Because of his recognized interest in cowboys, stemming from his work as a "puncher" from Montana to Mexico, and his subsequent work as a Western illustrator, frequently W. Herbert Dunton is dismissed by today's historians of American art. To be sure, at one time Dunton was one of the most popular illustrators in the United States. However, throughout his easel-painting career Dunton's work often reflected contemporaneous trends in American art such as American Impressionism, and a qualified Modernism in a Regionalist style, in spite of the "illustrator's curse" and his unfortunate--in some eyes--choice of subjects.

Among his peers, Dunton's work was often viewed as some of the strongest and most valid of that produced in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1927, Alexandre Hogue wrote that Dunton was "in the front rank of living American painters."[1] His work was exhibited at the National Academy of Design, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Art Institute of Chicago throughout his career, and he enjoyed a certain critical acclaim. For example, his Cattle Buyer* was selected for the 1924 Venice Biennial and was exhibited widely in the 'twenties and 'thirties. Yet, today his accomplishments are largely forgotten or ignored and he is often given the least credibility of any of the Taos artists.

While his compadres in the Taos Society of Artists focused almost exclusively on Indian or Hispanic life in the Taos Valley, Dunton looked to Anglos, the landscape, and the flora and fauna of the region, as well as Indians and Hispanics in his artistic explorations. For quite unlike his Taos brethren, and his peers outside Taos, Dunton was an outdoorsman in the purest sense of the word, preferring a canopy of pines and aspens over his head to the roof of a house, and the company of bear and elk to that of humans. He was also one of few American artists who was a participant in the West, rather than an observer or spectator of it, having worked periodically as a cowboy and hunter from his first trip to the West in 1896 to his first visit to Taos in 1912.

Dunton's lack of credibility among American art historians almost certainly stems from his early career as an illustrator. "Mere illustrator" may be two of the most damning words to an American artist's career, yet many of those artists considered important today also worked as commercial artists: Winslow Homer, Thomas Moran, George Luks, Stuart Davis, and Georgia O'Keeffe, among others, were commercial artists early in their careers. Analyses of these stalwarts of American art often ignore the obvious narrative qualities found in their work in favor of formal (modernist) discussions. Conversely, it is felt that Dunton, in spite of the simplification of forms and decorative aesthetic integral to his mature style, relied too heavily on illustrative techniques and thereby disqualified his work from serious consideration by today's historians.

Indeed, many of Dunton's works are problematic; however, looking at his work in terms of American art of the early twentieth century the distinctions between his work and contemporaneous trends is less clear cut. His work can be divided into three phases: his illustrations, his early work in Taos, and his mature style. A discussion of each of these phases of Dunton's career in the context of contemporaneous American art reveals Dunton was more in tune with work being done in more "legitimate" geographical areas than has been thought previously.

Born in Augusta, Maine, on 28 August 1878, Dunton became enamored of the outdoors at an early age often accompanying his grandfather on forays into the New England countryside.[2] These early excursions were the foundation of Dunton's life as a big-game hunter and chronicler of North American wildlife. However, young Dunton often carried a sketch pad along with his rod or rifle during his outings.

Along with the outdoors, the American West gripped the imagination of the budding artist. He listened to stories and yarns about the West at his grandfather's knee and almost certainly was exposed to the Western dime-novels that inundated the East beginning in the 1870s. In one of his unpublished stories, "Two Boys and a Gun," Dunton recalled that after building "camps" in the woods with his brother and a cousin "so that [they] might live apart like lonely hunters," the boys proceeded to partake of their frontier fantasy:

". . . we became strongly influenced by stories we read of the West. We began to slink about the pasture in broad-brimmed hats, our belts bristling with discarded pistols and butcher knives borrowed from the kitchen. Thus living in the atmosphere of the frontier, our conversation naturally . . . dwelled principally on grizzly 'b'ars' and 'Injuns.' We addressed each other as 'pards' and . . . one of us was almost certain to be relating a personal encounter with Indians or a hard fight with a grizzly." [3]

When his yearning to see the West became too great he quit school at sixteen to work in a clothing store to earn money for the trip. In 1896 Dunton's opportunity finally arrived and "with a few things in a bag and a new Winchester" he headed West. After a brief stop at Broken Bow, Nebraska, where he sketched at the fair, his money carried him to Livingston, Montana, although he hoped to continue on. He soon took up with a bear hunter, sometimes identified as William H. Wright, with whom he hunted for nearly two years supplying meat to ranches in Park and Musselshell counties, Montana.

In 1897, while working as a cowboy for the "Y brand" north of Billings, Dunton may have met have met Charles M. Russell as Russell had just settled in Great Falls.[4] Dunton idolized Russell and the older artist reportedly counted him among his greatest friends.

Although Dunton made a number of trips west between 1896 and 1911, the specific details of his travels remain ambiguous. However, in addition to Montana, he cowboyed or hunted in Wyoming, Oregon, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Mexico. His trips were confined to summers while he worked and studied in the East during the rest of the year.

After moving his permanent residence to Boston in 1897 Dunton enrolled at the Cowles Art School there. He received additional instruction from Andreas M. Andersen (1869-1902), William L. Taylor (1854-1926), and Joseph Rodefer DeCamp (1858-1923). His illustration career also began in earnest as he received commissions from small publishers around Boston.

Dunton married Nellie Hartley in 1900, and three years later, searching for a larger market for his illustrations, the couple moved to New York City. He apparently did fairly well as by 1905 the Duntons had moved to a comfortable house, with a studio in the barn, at Ridgewood, New Jersey.

Dunton's career as an illustrator of Western subjects coincided with and benefitted from the "cowboy-craze" that swept the country following the publication of Owen Wister's The Virginian in 1902. While dime Western novels had been circulating since the 1870s, and Buffalo Bill's Wild West had toured the eastern United States beginning in 1882, it was Wister's Virginian which solidified the mythological character of the Cowboy Hero in the American consciousness. According to historian Lonn Taylor, the Cowboy Hero was always "manly, self-reliant, virtuous, competitive (but always fair), a free agent in the labor market, dependent only on his own skills for employment, and, above all, 100 percent Anglo Saxon."[5] Perhaps most importantly the Cowboy Hero "embodied all of the old American values"[6] that had been sublimated in the aftermath of the Civil War.

This genre also grew to include Western women who embodied many of these same traits, although there was a distinction between the "cowgirls" of the Wild West shows and true Western women. The Miller 101 Ranch Wild West Show, based in Oklahoma, was one of the first to introduce the cowgirl in the early 1900s, and "claimed, quite incorrectly, that cowgirls had always assisted with roundups, trail drives, and other aspects of ranch work."[7] In 1922 Philip Ashton Rollins addressed the differences between Western women and cowgirls writing that although the "'cowgirls' may be of Western blood and spirit, their buckskin clothing speaks of the present-day theatre and not of the ranches of long ago."[8] Occasionally Western women, often widows, did take over ranch activities admirably. However, their roles on ranches typically centered around the ranch-house, although many "rode extremely well" and "equalled almost the best of men in horsemanship, though lacking the vitality long to sit a violent buck."[9] Western fiction writers, and consequently illustrators, often combined the innate values of typical Western women with the practical ranch skills of the mythical cowgirl, resulting in a hybrid.

Dunton was the ideal man to lend "authenticity" to illustration for stories which focused on the Cowboy Hero and Cowgirl Heroine. And while his compositions of cowboys followed established patterns, his renderings of Western women for illustrations marked a more singular contribution to Western art. According to Schimmel: "Dunton, probably more than any other illustrator of the West, portrayed western women not simply as they stood by the side of a cowboy but as they independently took on the West." [10]

Indeed, while the facial features of the women he depicted often resembled the Gibson Girl, quite popular after 1890, Dunton's women ride horses (Margo Phillips Beutler, n.d.), herd cows (The Helping Hand, 1910), and ride bucking broncos (Girl on a Bucking Horse, 1908). The admiration and respect Dunton had for "true" Western women is evident in his paintings and even extended into an article he wrote for Scribner's in 1914:

"Two girl bronc' riders, a feminine element in striking contrast to the husky punchers, are more likely to be longer remembered. To the Eastern visitor [to the West] these young ladies seem our of place among the participants of this rough sport. Their riding, to him, is nothing short of wonderful. To some of us it is disappointing to note that they ride with 'hobbled' stirrups. Stirrups are 'hobbled' by passing a thong from one, beneath the horse's belly, to the opposite and tying securely. We have known girls in different sections of the cow-country who could ride bronchos and ride them 'slick' (without hobbles), and we resent this trick played upon us here." [11]

Dunton made numerous sketches during his summer sojourns in the West, often using them for future illustrations. The theme of the J/D Outfit (1906), painted in Wyoming, was a common one for Dunton and was re-used on a cover for The Munsey magazine in June 1906. The watercolor Mule Deer, Wyoming (1907), in a medium he used frequently for sketches, became Ready for the Kill (c. 1907) in its final version.[12] And his Sketchbook (1911) is filled with ideas for illustrations for the Scribner's article cited above.

By 1906 Dunton's popularity as an illustrator began to soar, resulting in commissions from magazines such as Collier's, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Harper's Monthly, Popular Magazine, and Scribner's, and from publishers to illustrate books by Harold Bindloss, Zane Grey, Alfred Henry Lewis, and others (Figure ?). Dunton was in such demand that at the sudden death of Frederic Remington in 1909, he was asked to continue illustrating the serialized autobiography of General Nelson A. Miles originally begun by Remington. However, among aficionados of American illustration today, Dunton's accomplishments in that arena are largely ignored or forgotten, undoubtedly due to his permanent move to Taos in 1914 and the forfeiture of his career as an illustrator. Nevertheless, it is ironic that the career for which he is cursed by American art historians is virtually ignored by illustration historians.

Unlike other artists who traveled to the West at this time seeking new subjects for their brushes, Dunton went west hoping to become a cowboy and hunter, but turned to rendering the West only after cowboying and hunting proved to be non-lucrative. The majority of the artists and illustrators who went west to glean material for their canvases only played at being cowboys for relatively short periods of time.

For example, although he boasted of his life on the range, Remington's days as a "cowboy" were limited to a short period of sheep ranching in 1883 in Kansas. Perhaps second only to Remington in today's consciousness of American illustrators, N. C. Wyeth worked as a cowboy for only nine days in 1904, before returning to Pennsylvania with sketches from which he made many of his well-known Western paintings.

Dunton was one of few artists who could lend authenticity to Western illustrations because he had been a part of it, albeit as it was passing away. Like many of his fellows, he was a great collector of Western garb and weapons. Yet, Dunton's authenticity transcends mere gear and trappings into the arena of believable Western figures, characters, and situations. Unlike the more well-known Wyeth, for example, Dunton never exaggerated poses or distorted facial expressions to the point of caricature.

To be sure, Dunton's figures are cut from the Cowboy Hero mold. They are, nevertheless, believable, and this believability separates Dunton from his illustrator peers. Generally, Dunton's illustrations rarely contain the air of artificiality or fantasy integral to the work of most illustrators. While cleaned-up to a certain extent, he still allowed the dirt and grit of the West to seep into his pictures: Dunton's West was not a dream, it was real!

While Dunton can be separated quite easily from the majority of his peers, it is Frederic Remington to whom he owes his greatest debt. His association with Russell is known, yet the relationship of his work to Remington's remains largely unnoticed; for, in terms of ideas for illustrations, Dunton looked to Remington more often than to any other artist. For example, Dunton's The Breed Trapper, 1830, 1913, (Plate ?) is a reinterpretation of Remington's well-known Indian Trapper, 1889 (Figure ?), first reproduced in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in 1891. Similarly, many of Dunton's titles and the paintings to which these titles were applied are very similar to those of Remington: Dunton's Crow Outlier, c. 1916, and Remington's The Outlier, 1909; Dunton's The First Lesson*, c. 1910, and Remington's His First Lesson, 1903; and Dunton's unlocated The Lonely Vigil, c. 1913, bears a striking resemblance to Remington's The Scout: Friends or Enemies?, c. 1890. This is not to suggest that Dunton copied his compositions from Remington. Rather, in pursuing a similar subject, Dunton, as all artists have done throughout history, and like many illustrators constantly searching for ideas, looked to the recognized master of a certain genre for inspiration and possible solutions to problems.

There is no evidence to suggest that Dunton and Remington knew each other. However, the former must have seen Remington's magazine illustrations and, beginning in 1903, the monthly paintings reproduced in Collier's. Furthermore, Dunton may have seen Remington's exhibitions at Knoedler's New York gallery in 1906, 1907, and 1908.

Ironically, during his hey-day as an illustrator, Dunton was often compared to Remington, and was recognized as the latter's successor in Western painting. American Art News (October 1913) noted that Dunton was: ". . . succeeding the late Frederick [sic] Remington as a cowboy painter." And the Kansas City Star (28 September 1917) reported that Dunton was: ". . . the first man who has shown symptoms of being qualified to occupy the position left vacant by Remington" and that he possessed the ". . . ability to carry on the work where Remington left off." These critical sentiments may very well have resulted in Dunton's commission to complete the series on General Miles, left unfinished by Remington's sudden death.

While Dunton was one of a large number of artists who created Western illustrations for books and magazines, his accomplishments in that arena were significant:

"With words Wister and Zane Grey made it possible for Herbert Dunton and Frank Tenney Johnson to depict cowboy life at the same time with paints. When Dunton and Johnson created book jackets for Western classics, they were not merely illustrating for a segment of readers but pointing to the broad trail of art which their successors were to follow." [13]

In spite of his work as a "mere illustrator," by 1908 Dunton had made important inroads with the New York art establishment resulting in his election to the exclusive artist's social fraternity, the Salmagundi Club, where he met Ernest Blumenschein. About 1911, he began studies at the Art Students League under Frederick C. Yohn (1875-1933), Frank V. DuMond (1875-1951), and briefly with Blumenschein.

Dunton divulged his growing dissatisfaction with the illustration field to Blumenschein who told him "If you don't quit now you'll never quit."[14] Blumenschein encouraged Dunton to visit Taos and paint the spirit of the West rather than simply the West of cowboys and Indians. So, in June of 1912, Dunton visited the New Mexican village, followed by visits the next summer and resulting in a permanent move there in 1914. "I had wanted to paint for some time," Dunton said, "I finally decided to get at it before I was too old. I had begun to lose the enthusiasm of youth in the 'grind' that, I assume, comes sooner or later to every illustrator."[15] Thus began the second phase of his career, although although he did illustrations periodically until 1923. In 1915, Dunton was a charter member of the Taos Society of Artists, remaining a member until 1922.

Initially, Dunton saw Taos and the surrounding landscape simply as a background for paintings of the Old West. He told the Los Angeles Times in May, 1913:

"This is the ideal place for me because there are more varieties of atmosphere than I have found in any other place. Up in the high hills one can get the right setting for old trapper pictures. There are several varieties of sage and cactus for backgrounds, according to the elevation you choose. The Taos Indians are as fine types as I have ever seen and if one wants to paint a Mexican picture he can get a background almost anywhere near Taos that you would swear was a transplanted bit of Old Mexico." [16]

Paintings such as In Cattle Land, 1912, and The Breed Trapper, 1830 follow this attitude.

Like many artists who experienced northern New Mexico, Dunton could not avoid being stunned by the strange clear atmosphere and intense light so characteristic of the area around Taos. This may have hastened his interest in the effects of outdoor painting, as opposed to studio compositions, and after 1912 a marked shift in his work occurs.

Between 1912 and the early 1920s Dunton's paintings exhibit a growing sensitivity to different light effects on a variety of surfaces, an interest in brushstroke as an expressive tool, and a brightening of palette. Paintings such as Indian Portrait, 1912; Untitled (Bay Horse), c. 1912; and Winter Range, before 1921; exhibit these characteristics.

The intense light coupled with a more painterly palette of pinks, lavenders, light blues and greens, found in his paintings during this period align him with other American artists who were showing the effects of French Impressionism in their own work. However, unlike the French Impressionists who commonly allowed forms to dissolve in brushwork and light, the solidity of forms was essential to the American art tradition at that time and American artists rarely allowed forms to dissolve as completely as did their French brethren. Furthermore, American Impressionists, such as Childe Hassam, John H. Twachtman, and J. Alden Weir, were an integral part of the conservative milieu in the United States at this time.

Dunton's rendering of the sky and of the chamisa in the foreground of his In Cattle Land and the overall effect of White Horses demonstrate how he toyed with the dissolution of forms through dynamic brushwork. And the cursory rendering--the chunks of paint--of the mounted figure in Winter Camp of the Sioux indicate how far he leaned toward abstraction.

However, Schimmel considers Dunton part of a late nineteenth and early twentieth-century global interest in outdoor painting and light effects which "was not necessarily synonymous with the development of Impressionism.[17] William H. Gerdts has called this movement the "Glare aesthetic" and, according to Gerdts, artists who fall under this designation:

"were interested in the effects of intense daylight, portrayed in strong tonal contrasts, often achieving the powerful effect of glare from reflecting surfaces. Thus flat, or near-flat, areas and surfaces are often significant spatial forms in their paintings. These may appear as broad areas of background or horizontal 'support' areas on which figures, merchandise and buildings stand, but they function more significantly than only in such a passive manner. They are mirrors from which dazzling sunlight is reflected back toward the spectator and upon which strong silhouettes of still clearly rendered forms may be cast, allowing for the intensification of color and light without dissolution of forms." [18]

These painters participated in the increasing interest in outdoor light effects, yet hoped to retain solidity of form simultaneously. They "wished to record sunlight, and effect brighter, more colorful and engaging natural effects" in an effort to appear more modern. Dunton's In Cattle Land, The Open Range, White Horses, and Winter Range seem to fall under the aegis of the "Glare aesthetic."

Apparently, Dunton promoted his role as a plein-air--and therefore "modern"--painter, and was frequently photographed painting outdoors (Figure ?). The New York Herald (14 December 1914) reported that "he paints right out of doors - begins, finishes and even signs his paintings out in the open."[19] And in 1916, Scribner's noted that Dunton "believes in painting direct from nature, and spares himself no trouble to get his effects, setting forth at times with models and half a dozen ponies . . . to paint them in a wind-storm, with his canvas anchored aginst the stiff breeze by big boulders." [20]

Dunton's new style was well-received. His Lonely Vigil was reportedly purchased on varnishing day from the 1913 annual exhibition at the National Academy of Design,[21] and was reproduced in the New York Evening Post 22 March 1913 along with paintings by Cecilia Beaux, Gifford Beal, and Charles C. Curran. And American Art News reported on 14 February 1914 that ". . . he proves his knowledge of drawing, cleverness of composition, and sense of color." [22]

While he was an anomaly in Taos in terms of his actual experience in the West, Dunton shared characteristics with many of his fellows there. His interest in light effects aligned him with Walter Ufer and Victor Higgins. And his interest in the Old West of cowboys found a kindred spirit in Oscar Berninghaus. However, it was with his former teacher Blumenschein that Dunton showed the greatest similarity through shared interests in decorative patterning and in the simplification of forms to essential geometric shapes so characteristic of the later work of both artists.

Although he chose to include Anglos and the wildlife of the area as subjects and is usually pigeon-holed as a cowboy painter, Dunton turned to the Taos Indians as subjects periodically, and certainly more often than is usually considered. Like E. Irving Couse and Joseph Henry Sharp, however, Dunton clothed his models in the garb of the Northern Plains Indians, a nostalgic stereotypical conceit left over from the nineteenth-century. However, unlike Couse and Sharp, Dunton's Indians paintings were usually painted en plein air, such as Indian Portrait, Crow Outlier, or Winter Camp of the Sioux, rather than studio creations. A notable exception is Standing Buffalo. One of Dunton's finest portraits, Standing Buffalo illustrates his unwillingness "to throw overboard the accumulated skills and knowledge of [his] own immediate academic training, so dearly achieved, and the totality of still-respected if no longer revered tradition" thereby underscoring one of the tenets of Gerdts's "Glare aesthetic."[23] Furthermore, Dunton broke with the 19th-century Indian painting tradition in the late 1920s with a series of portrait drawings of Taos Indians and later with paintings such as the unlocated Portrait of Singing Rain (Figure ?).

In 1922, Dunton resigned from the Taos Society of Artists, perhaps because of a disparaging remark made by Ufer about Blumenschein.[24] Although he relinquished his position in the Society he retained his associations with the other members. However, after his resignation he was forced to market his own paintings. While he continued to send paintings to the annuals in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York, he arranged and accompanied traveling exhibitions of his work in the Midwest, Texas, and Oklahoma. For example, between 1922 and the early 1930s he exhibited in Kansas City, Missouri; Tulsa and Ponca City, Oklahoma; and the major cities in Texas: Amarillo, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Galveston, Houston, and San Antonio.

In the early 1920s, Dunton's methods shifted again, perhaps due to the criticism he received from the Russian emigre Leon Gaspard who had arrived in Taos in 1918. Although the effects of Gaspard are difficult to discern in Dunton's work after 1918, the emotive power of the brushstroke is perhaps the clearest influence. Dunton's early work of this period exhibits a marked use of organized brushstrokes to create the illusion of forms, resulting in some cases, in almost mosaic-like passages in many of his paintings. The small, undated Study #32 (Resting) smacks of Gaspard's influence, while Lilly: Big Game Hunter (c. 1921-1922) exhibits the organized brushstrokes integral to Dunton's work at this juncture, particularly in the pants and jacket of the sitter and in the bodies of the dogs.

Beginning in the 'twenties Dunton achieved his compositions through an increased simplification of and consequent stylization of form resulting in more and more decorative canvases reminiscent of Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements. However, it was with the Regionalists, both stylistically and philosophically, especially some of the Texas Regionalists and Grant Wood, that Dunton's work had the closest associations.

Dunton was almost certainly familiar with Regionalist theses appearing in the pages of the Dial magazine (which also published articles on modern art) and the Southwest Review, published at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. His travels throughout Texas, including exhibitions in Dallas in 1929 and 1933, his friendship with Alexandre Hogue, and Hogue's 1927 article on Dunton written for the Review, would have familiarized him with the Southwest Review.

As Rick Stewart has clearly proven in his seminal Lone Star Regionalism: The Dallas Nine and Their Circle, the Texas Regionalists, including writers in the Southwest Review, were influenced heavily by articles by Van Wyck Brooks, John Dewey, and George Santayana in the magazine the Dial. Stewart writes: "In fact, it is hard to overemphasize the extent of the Dial's influence on the Texas regionalist movement then just getting underway [in the late 1920s]." [25]

Van Wyck Brooks urged American artists to draw on America's "communal experience" as a "usable past" and to create works reflective of their own communities in his 1918 Dial article.[26] John Dewey extended Brooks's views, writing in 1920 that when the American artist explored the "spread of localities" that was America "no one [would] need to worry about the future of American art." Furthermore, Dewey insisted that art based on "just local, just human, just at home, just where [we] live" themes could be used as a forum for the expression of universal values.[27] George Santayana echoed Brooks and Dewey writing in 1922 that art could be found in "everything--clothes, speech, manners, government," not in museums, which he called mausoleums. Furthermore, he believed that America's regional diversity and different backgrounds were its artistic strengths. [28]

Articles such as these were known to the younger Dallas artists who reviewed back issues of the Dial for the articles on modern art, some with reproductions. Perhaps most importantly, the Dial also influenced writers for the Southwest Review. In what Stewart calls "a manifesto of sorts," Henry Nash Smith, one of the leaders of Regionalist writing in Texas, wrote in the Review that Texans should "relate themselves to their specific environment" and insisted that criticism would show "what Texas is" by discriminating "between what is native and true, and what is meretricious and exotic." Furthermore, Smith paraphrased Santayana--and said so--challenging artists to concentrate on their own environments in order to create "an art which is firmly enough rooted in its own earth to command attention from the world." [29]

A year later in "A Note on the Southwest," Smith designated the American Southwest as its own region and laid it out geographically: "It is bounded on the east by the western edge of the Mississippi and Red River bottom land; on the north, roughly, by the line of the Missouri Compromise and the Santa Fe Trail; on the west by the Rockies and Arizona desert; and on the south by Mexico and the Gulf." [30]

While Smith again insisted that artists concentrate on their local environments, he recognized that an indigenous art required supporters: "works of universal significance cannot be produced by an artist or a group of artists alone. There must be an understanding audience before the circuit is complete . . . And in the Southwest there is no audience." Furthermore, he saw that the artistic traditions in the Southwest were relatively young and required "gradual adaptations to a specific environment" and that "generations of frustrations and ecstasies must sink into the soil and into the innermost minds of artists" before those traditions were appreciated. For that reason, he reminded Regionalist artists that "exhortation is not the way to produce conviction" among connoisseurs as their recognition as "masters" would "arrive . . . if they deserve it" and it was "certain not to come soon." [31]

While, Dunton may have known Smith, he almost certainly knew his writings. Conversely, Smith wrote of Taos painters of longhorn cattle, thereby indicating his knowledge of Dunton's work,[32] perhaps Old Texas or Texas of Old. [33] Furthermore, in February 1929, a dinner in Dallas in Dunton's honor was hosted by John H. McGinnis, an editor for the Southwest Review and Hogue, a leader in Dallas Regionalist art circles and frequent contributor to Southwest Review.

In an article on Taos for the Southwest Review, McGinnis had written that Dunton was "so intent upon seizing the vanishing life of hunter, trapper, scout, and cowman that he has an earnestness of style which makes one apt to overlook his virtuosity as a painter."[34] Jerry Bywaters, another Dallas art leader and writer for the Review, also knew and commented favorably on Dunton's work.[35] However, it was Hogue who truly admired Dunton's paintings.

Hogue had visited Taos as early as 1920, and counted Dunton and Ernest Blumenschein among his friends and sketching companions. Dunton took Hogue on pack horse trips into the Sangre de Cristos, often to areas not usually accessible to Anglos, such as sacred Blue Lake.[36] In his 1927 article "W. Herbert Dunton: An Appreciation," Hogue revealed his admiration for the older artist's work calling it "beautifully conceived, rich in color, strong in drawing, and decorative in feeling." Furthermore, Hogue felt that: "Unlike many painters, Dunton does not excel in one phase of his work at the expense of all others; his landscapes, animals, human figures, are equally well done. The ability to do all these things well; his 'range,' or extremes of color from lightest to darkest; and, above all the third-dimensional effect which he achieves, place him in the front rank of living American painters." [37]

This third-dimensional effect, "the quality that makes it seem possible to walk around a painted object--the touches which cause that painted object to appear surround by air," was what gave Dunton "his strongest claim to greatness," according to Hogue.[38] Perhaps what Hogue admired most about Dunton was, as he wrote in 1929, that "he is sincere it what he does, believes in what he does, and does it well." Even today Hogue, one of the most acclaimed artists in the Southwest, feels that Dunton has been wronged by critics and that his work is strong: "He got right down to the real thing and I say it was good and it was fine art. It had nothing to do with illustration." [39]

Exploring indigenous cultures and local environments through creative endeavors was not limited to the writings in Dial and the Southwest Review, nor to the paintings of Texas Regionalists. The Regionalist movement in the Southwest was part of a pan-American movement in the late 1920s and early 1930s partially in response to the Great Depression. Americans sought escape from the despair of severe economic difficulties by turning toward cultural roots and basic principles often found in rural environments. Concurrently, Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal supported art programs around the country and spawned a style that was recognizable, and therefore accessible, to the common man.

Because of his focus on rural life and its subsequent values, perhaps no artist commanded national attention more during the early 1930s than Grant Wood -- sometimes called the quintessential Regionalist. And it is with Grant Wood, both stylistically and philosophically, that W. Herbert Dunton finds a kindred spirit in his mature style.

Of the famous triumvirate of midwestern regionalists--Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, and John Steuart Curry -- the former was the most thoroughly committed to the movement according to Wanda Corn: "Virtually everything he did investigated some aspect of indigenous experience."[40] Like his brethren in the Southwest, for Wood Regionalism "was a matter of commitment to locale" (in his case the landscape and people of rural Iowa) "not of style; painters could be as 'conservative, as eclectic or as radical' as they chose."[41] However, with his Stone City, 1930, (Figure ?), Wood found "a style [he] would refine and modify, but never fundamentally alter, for the rest of his life." [42]

Wood felt that he and his fellow artists in the Midwest were creating a "new, truly American school of painting" by concentrating on American themes more familiar to wider audiences. Generally, these works presented well-known subjects in more narrative, literal terms; terms anathema to Modernists. Wood composed his canvases emphasizing design and decorative qualities in an attempt to elude the disparaging connotation "illustration" and to avoid creating what he called "merely tinted photographs."[43] Wood's attempts at avoiding pejorative judgements for his paintings were part of larger movement in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century (of which Dunton, too, was a part) wherein artists relied on abstract formal devices in order to be "modern."[44] Wood eventually evolved "a style of artificial geometries, clean surfaces, and relentless patterns . . . like the Art Deco decorators of his day."[45] However, no matter how abstract the formal devices he used Wood felt that in order to impart a message paintings had to be figurative. Furthermore, in spite of the fantasy-like guises paintings such as Stone City assumed, these canvases were always created using hard visual data including employing models, on-site sketches, and photographs.

America's awareness of Grant Wood began with the exhibition of his most famous painting, American Gothic, at the annual exhibition of American paintings and sculpture at the Art Insitute of Chicago in October 1930, at which Dunton's Sunset in the Foothills was also exhibited. Wood's place in the American consciousness was assured with a 1934 Time magazine article discussing the work of Wood, Benton, Curry, Charles Burchfield, Reginald Marsh, Ivan Le Lorraine Albright, and Charles Sheeler. Time called Wood "the chief philosopher and greatest teacher of representational U. S. art."[46] However, both stylistically and philosophically the work of the quintessential regionalist and that of a "cowboy painter" in Taos, New Mexico are remarkably similar.

The similarity between these two artists--one a veritable icon, the other largely ignored -- is uncanny. In fact, scholarly descriptions of Wood's work could very easily have been written about Dunton's.

When Dunton's emphasis on subject also shifted again in the mid-'twenties, his work aligned itself with the tenets of Regionalism, albeit perhaps without a complete break from his earlier work. Instead of concentrating solely on an Old West that had virtually disappeared by then, he turned instead to subjects who had been a part of the Old West in Taos, but he chose to paint and draw them as they were then rather than as they had been:

"The west has passed--more's the pity. In another twenty-five years the old-time westerner will have gone too -- gone with the buffalo and the antelope. I'm going to hand down to posterity a bit of unadulterated real thing, if it's the last thing I do--and I'm going to do it, muy pronto." [47]

Historians have interpreted this Dunton quote as merely a lamentation for the passing of the Old West. It is that; but it is much more. This passage can be viewed as Dunton's statement of purpose for the rest of his life, as he rarely strayed from his announced path. In other words, Dunton was determined to render contemporary life and characters in Taos and the surrounding area much like Grant Wood chose to do in Iowa; although certainly the contemporary life on which each painter chose to concentrate was highly selective and nostalgic. This focus on contemporary life of a particular region was also integral to the philosophy of Regionalist painting espoused by Jerry Bywaters and Alexandre Hogue in Texas and other painters in the United States at that time.

Dunton's major figure paintings of the 1920s and 1930s are distinctly different from similar images from the 'teens in that the latter paintings no longer convey the feeling of spontaneity or of having been completed outdoors. Instead, from the lighting through the poses of figures, the later works are clearly carefully controlled compositions, much like those of Grant Wood.[48] In fact, in a rare discussion of his philosophy Dunton described it in a letter to his friend Texas artist Harold D. Bugbee in 1922:

"Study arrangement in mass, color, and line - particularly line. You not only have the problem of making your [figures] in possible positions but you also have got to arrange them so that they form artistic masses along the lines of which the eye is unconsciously led through and back and fourth [sic] across the canvas - never out of the picture."

Clearly, Dunton insisted on figures as the only suitable vehicles for conveying his messages. And, these images were built on a foundation of "hard visual data" including using models, making numerous sketches, and taking photographs. Finally, in order maintain a position as a "modern" artist he composed these paintings using a pictorial vocabulary based on the abstract qualities of design and decorative sensibility.

Paintings such as June in the Canon (Figure ?), Mountain Pool, and Deer Hunter's Camp (Plate ?) exemplify Dunton's skill with compositional design, his sensitivity to decorative pattern, and his growing confidence in using powerful color. He described his approach to scenes such as that depicted in The Mountain Pool:

"The inspiration for this canvas -- as in my others--was my own trips in the the hills. . . I have depicted no particular place--as I do in few of my canvases--changing the lines of those I see in nature to make a 'composition.' That is where the art comes in--taking what one wishes from a place or places and knowing what to discard. An artistic production is not a literal translation of nature. If it were there would be no sense in painting or paintings--because nature would be always superior to our humble product." [49]

Dunton often used occupations or descriptions as titles -- Lilly, Big Game Hunter, "Ginger": Trapper, The Texan, McMullin, Guide -- and continued that tradition through the 'twenties and 'thirties. However, in the later paintings the emphasis is not on characters or types in the Old West; rather the changes wrought on Old West occupations and how the changes surface in the New West are the key. Perhaps the most significant changes are the aging of participants in the Old West (Lilly, Big Game Hunter, and "Ginger": Trapper), who Dunton portrayed in his "Old Timer" series, and the shift in duties of former cowboys to hunting guides (McMullin, Guide) or dude wranglers.

This thematic shift also parallels the work of Grant Wood. As Wood refined his Regionalist style, the individual features of a sitter or model became secondary to the establishment of a theme: "The message . . . lies exclusively with the age and physical type of the sitter and the apparel, accessories, and backgrounds."[50] As shown above, age and physical type were integral to Dunton's "Old Timer" series. He, too, insisted on appropriate accoutrements and particular landscapes as backgrounds in conveying his messages. For example, he described the "rigging" of The Texan in great detail to the purchaser of the painting, feeling that authenticity was necessary to the understanding of the image.[51] Like Grant Wood, Dunton was "unsatisfied with likenesses alone" and therefore "added associative accessories." [52]

Obviously, Dunton intended for his major portraits to stand the test of time and to somehow act as icons or reminders of how life in the West was once less complicated by the influence of an all-too-commercial world. By carefully composing these paintings Dunton indicated quite clearly that photographic images of the Old West--like Wood's "tinted photographs" -- were not his goal. Instead he put down on canvas, and thereby saved, his interpretations of the West of which he was then a part, and the values contained therein, before they, too, disappeared.

The value in preserving the West, Old and New, through art paralleled Wood's philosophy in saving "bits of American folklore that are too good to lost."[53] Furthermore, both Wood and Dunton hoped to "instill new magic and charm into old fables," such as those found in rural Iowa and the West, "so they would not, in the wake of iconoclasts be lost forever."[54] Nostalgic Dunton paintings such as Old Texas and Texas of Old are examples of this philosophy in that he hoped to validate old themes--Texas longhorns and cattle drives, respectively--by using a new, "modern" formal vocabulary. [55]

Clothing was also integral to Dunton's Regionalist artistic persona. Like Grant Wood's practice of dressing in farmer's overalls so that he might better identify with his rural roots, Dunton dressed the part of a cowboy. He did so with authority as Jerry Bywaters wrote in a review of Dunton's 1937 posthumous exhibition in Dallas: "During his thirty-five years as a resident of Taos he was to be the only artist who could wear with authority a wide-brimmed hat, cowpuncher's boots and a bright handkerchief . . . for he was the only artist there to be both cowboy and artist."[56] In order to promote the cowboy image while on tour with his paintings in the 1920s and 1930s, Dunton even had several pair of "boot-shoes" made for city-wear by a Clarendon, Texas, bootmaker.

The major portraits notwithstanding, stylistically Dunton's work most resembles Wood's (or vice versa) in the reduction of shape to essential geometric forms and in the repetition of those forms in rhythmic decorative patterns. Works such as Sunset in the Foothills[57], Elk in the Aspens, and particularly Aspens in Autumn, typify Dunton's application of this aesthetic to his paintings.

Searching for ways to avoid the dire financial straits in which he usually found himself, Dunton turned to etching and portrait drawings in early 1928.[58] Writing to Harold Bugbee in January 1928, Dunton confessed his plan to buy an etching "outfit," turn his dressing room into an etching studio, and "make artisticly [sic] fine little etchings of cowpunchers and kindred subjects to sell for ten or fifteen dollars."[59] Regrettably, none of his etchings have come to light.[60] Dunton also informed Bugbee of another venture, this time portrait drawings:

". . . I am making some small portrait drawings in charcoal etc. - matting them and hoping to sell them to those who want something of mine and can not afford to pay a hundred dollars and up for my canvases. Will sell these for $25, $50 and $75. I don't mean I'm giving up painting but am doing this for a "change" and to earn some easier money." [61]

Between 10 March and 29 June 1928, Dunton created thirty-four drawings of Taos Indians or "Old Timers" in either charcoal or crayon, and later made several more. Three such drawings are included in the exhibition: Charles Goodnight, Taos Pueblo Indian Man, Mountain Runner, and Portrait of the Judge. Sales were fair at first but in July Dunton wrote to Bugbee that "for over three months now no drawings or paintings have gone." [62]

Dunton's attempts to sketch "Old Timers" received a boost during the summer of 1928 when one of the most famous cattlemen in the country visited Taos. In spite of his insistence that there "were as many pictures of Goodnight in Texas as there were buzzards, and just about as useful," Charles Goodnight agreed to sit to Dunton as a favor to his wife. [63] With J. Evetts Haley sitting nearby to converse with Goodnight during the sitting, Dunton proceeded with the sketch in his studio. When the conversation turned to plaiting rawhide, the artist gave a rawhide reata from his collection to Goodnight for examination, as the Colonel was a proficient plaiter. As Goodnight examined the rope, Dunton turned his easel so the cattleman could see the nearly finished drawing. Goodnight remarked, "That's a beautiful piece of work." However, upon seeing Dunton's pleased expression, Goodnight snapped, "I'm talking about this rope," and walked out of the studio without seeing the sketch. [64]

Dunton intended to make lithographs from his Goodnight drawing, and promised one each to Haley and Mrs. Goodnight. However, as he wrote in a letter to Haley in October 1928 he had not "gotten around to even learning how to make lithographs yet . . . But when I do you and the Goodnights shall receive one."[65] As the earliest Dunton lithographs are dated 1930, this indicates the date at which he began to consider lithography as a medium.

Like many artists during the late 1920s and early 1930s, including Grant Wood, Dunton probably turned to lithography in order to make easier money and to disseminate his works in larger numbers. Only eleven lithographs are known, all of which are included in the exhibition, and all were issued in editions of one hundred and printed by George C. Miller of New York, one of the most popular printers in the United States after World War I. Miller also printed works by Wood, Benton, and Curry.

Five of Dunton's known lithographs are extensions of the portrait drawings he began in early 1928 (Figure ?). For example, the lithograph The Old Pioneer, Chapman Ballard almost certainly derives from the drawing The Old Timer, Chapman Ballard in the Stark Museum collection. Dunton enlarged and stylized the image slightly, made some facial features more dramatic, and created a much crisper image overall. The portrait lithographs notwithstanding, Dunton's only other known lithograph including a human figure, The Bronco Buster, was probably drawn on the plate using pencil sketches also in the Stark collection. Stylistically, the other five known lithographs are more daring than the rather straightforward portrait lithographs. Focusing on wildlife and the landscape, Dunton was freer to stylize shapes, to create artificial geometric forms, and to explore the advantages of the medium in rendering light and dark patterns as well as textures. With these lithographs Dunton's drawing prowess became clear. Although human figures are excluded, it is with these lithographs that Dunton's work comes closest to those of Grant Wood, particularly in the rendering of textured surfaces and atmosphere.

Many of the animal lithographs derive from paintings. For example, The Mountain Mother is virtually identical to a painting by the same title; Crest of the Rockies, Grizzly (Figure ?) is almost the reverse image of a previously unknown painting by the same title (included in the exhibition); and On the Great Plains, Prong Horn Antelope is related to In the Tetons, an unlocated painting.

However, two anomalies exist within Dunton's lithographic oeuvre: two distinctly different editions of The First Snow: Mule Deer and a previously unknown lithograph of Charles Goodnight.

Dunton apparently completed the first edition of The First Snow some time in February 1935 as he indicated in a letter to Harold Bugbee. In this same letter he wrote that "Kennith [sic] [Adams] and Berninghaus like it the best of any yet." He also wrote that he intended to stop numbering the lithographs beginning with that print as "it is a d------ nuisance calling in the low numbers as the sale of the edition approaches the 1/2 mark." [66]

However, five months later Dunton wrote: "I never was satisfied with the last lithograph of the deer, one of which I you purchased and which I sent you. I have therefor [sic] done this lithograph over and am sending you one of the new ones. . . Will you please return the old print of this subject so that I may distroy [sic] it together with the rest of the edition." [67]

The differences in the two editions are obvious. The reversal of the image notwithstanding, in the second edition Dunton clearly became concerned with texture and a more believable environment for the deer, much different from the almost pristine landscape of the first edition. Prints from both editions are included in the exhibition, however, it is unclear which is the first and which is the second edition.

Bugbee was a trustworthy man and presumably returned the first-edition print and received a second-edition print from Dunton. However, the majority of the prints in circulation are from the edition from which the Museum of Fine Arts' print was taken and are numbered. The other print included was formerly in Bugbee's collection and is not numbered. This problem remains to be solved.

As mentioned above, Dunton planned to send lithographs of his Goodnight drawing to J. Evetts Haley and to the Goodnights, not long after the sitting. In 1931, he sent a charcoal copy of the original drawing to Haley, and a lithograph of the drawing to Mrs. Goodnight. At this time, the lithograph Charles Goodnight included in the exhibition is the only known proof of that image.

The third phase of Dunton's career is also marked by an emphasis on nature. While his frequent pack-horse trips into the Sangre de Cristos are well-known, he began to focus many of his paintings on the outdoors, particularly the landscape and wildlife.

For much of his life he had sketched and painted animals in the wild and in zoos. During the third phase of his career, he began to integrate animals--elk, deer, and especially bears--into simplified, stylized landscapes characterized by rich color such as Black Tails (Black Tails and Aspen), Sunset in the Foothills and Aspens in Autumn. He also made numerous quite abstract painterly landscape sketches, such as Sketch #6 (Ledge Pines).

It is fitting that many of Dunton's last major works concentrated on bears. As he indicated in his unpublished story titled simply "Bear," the bruin had held his fascination since he was a child: "Bear! How my heart leaped and my pulse quickened as I sat, motionless and agape, drinking in those weird tales of an ancient past! For, to me, a bear seemed to belong to those bygone years of the screaming panther and skulking Indian with his war whoop and bloody tomahawk." [68]

He had hunted bears for much of his life and knew them perhaps better than any artist in the West, inside and out. However, with his mature style, bears assumed prominent roles in his canvases and in two lithographs. For example, he painted at least three versions of Black Bear, the smallest 14 by 14 inches, the largest 48 x 48 inches. Writing to Bugbee in July 1932, he noted that he had "only finished two canvases this year. 'Timberline' (Grizzly) size 30 x 30 and 'The Mountain Mother' (Black Bear + Cubs) size 60 x 60 ins. Do my best."[69] As one might expect, bears were the subject of one of his last major paintings, Fall in the Foothills, 1934, painted for the Public Works of Art Project in New Mexico, and selected by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to hang in the White House.

The frequency with which Dunton returned to his preferred haunts in the mountains and to one of his favorite subjects, bears, in the 1930s, perhaps presages his own feelings of mortality as his health began to fail. Dunton's physical decline began as early as 1928. After an "encounter with a rambunctious mare" in January which caused a "rupture," duodenal ulcers were discovered in July. His health continued to deteriorate and in 1935 prostrate cancer was discovered followed by diagnoses of stomach and lung cancer. On 18 March 1936, Buck Dunton died at age 57. It seems fitting that at the time of his death a work focusing on bears, Crest of the Rockies, Grizzly, was being printed in New York. Unfortunately, he never saw the proofs and consequently all were signed by his daughter Vivian or son Ivan.

W. Herbert "Buck" Dunton's work, like that of many of his Taos brethren, suffers from the genuine inability of some art historians to look beyond subject matter in placing an artist in the larger context of American art. Clearly, Dunton's mature style shares many characteristics with the Regionalist school, both stylistically and philosophically, especially the work of Grant Wood. He was cognizant of the effects of French Impressionism in this country, and applied the plein-air aesthetic to his canvases in the 'teens and early twenties. Finally, he stands tall among illustrators of the American West, even though his accomplishments in that arena are largely forgotten today.

Hopefully, through "W. Herbert Dunton: A Retrospective," Dunton's work will not remain pigeonholed and will be re-examined within the larger context of American art. For Dunton wanted to be recognized as a painter of the West, but he knew that in order to be remembered he also had to make great art: "What I want is to paint for connoisseurs, yet have the people out 'in God's country' say 'That man's been there.'" W. Herbert "Buck" Dunton's work speaks for itself.

*not included in the exhibition


1. Alexandre Hogue, "W. Herbert Dunton: An Appreciation," Southwest Review, 13 (October 1927): 55.

2. For Dunton's complete biography see Julie Schimmel's The Art and Life of W. Herbert Dunton, 1878-1936), (University of Texas Press, 1984).

3. W. Herbert Dunton, "Two Boys and a Gun," n.d., Stark Museum of Art.

4. Adra A. Johnson, "Dunton: Westerner," 78.

5. Lonn Taylor, The American Cowboy, (Washington: The Library of Congress, 1984): .

6. Ibid., 63.

7. Ibid., 68.

8. Philip Ashton Rollins, The Cowboy, (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1922), 36.

9. Ibid., 36.

10. Schimmel, Dunton, 60.

11. W. Herbert Dunton, "The Fair in the Cow Country," Scribner's 55 (April 1914): .

12. According to a notation on the back of Ready for the Kill it was used by the Minnesota calendar company Brown and Bigelow.

13. Ed Ainsworth, The Cowboy in Art, (New York and Cleveland: The World Publishing Company, 1968), 44.

14. Alexandre Hogue, "W. Herbert Dunton: An Appreciation," Southwest Review 13 (October 1927): 53.

15. As quoted in F. Warner Robinson, "Dunton--Westerner," The American Magazine of Art 15 (October 1924): 506-507.

16. Los Angeles Times, 10 May 1913, Dunton Scrapbook, Kit Carson Memorial Museums, Taos, New Mexico.

17. William H. Gerdts, American Impressionism, (Seattle: University of Washington, 1980), 17. For Schimmel's discussion see Schimmel, Dunton, 138-141.

18. Gerdts, American Impressionism, 17.

19. New York Herald, 14 December 1914, Dunton Scrapbook, Kit Carson Memorial Foundation, Taos, New Mexico.

20. Ernest Peixotto, "The Taos Society of Artists," Scribners 60 (August 1916): 260.

21. Ivan H. Dunton, "W. Herbert Dunton -- A Biography."

22. American Art News, 14 February 1914, Dunton Scrapbook, Kit Carson Memorial Museums, Taos, New Mexico.

23. Gerdts, American Impressionism, 17.

24. Another explanation for Dunton's resignation may have been his refusal to accept his obligation to serve as the Society's secretary. See Robert R. White, The Taos Society of Artists, (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1983), 10, 78-79, and 93.

25. Rick Stewart, Lone Star Regionalism: The Dallas Nine and Their Circle (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1985), 22.

26. Van Wyck Brooks, "On Creating a Usable Past," Dial 64 (11 April 1918): 337-41, as cited in Stewart, Lone Star Regionalism, 22.

27. John Dewey, "Americanism and Localism," Dial 68 (June 1920): 684-688.

28. George Santayana, "Marginal Notes," Dial 72 (June 1922): 553-569, as cited in Stewart, Lone Star Regionalism, 22.

29. Henry Nash Smith, "Culture," Southwest Review 8 (January 1928): 249-255.

30. Henry Nash Smith, "A Note on the Southwest," Southwest Review 16 (Spring 1929): 269.

31. Ibid., 268-278.

32. Ibid., 274.

33. Old Texas was exhibited at the Dallas Public Library in lat March 1929. See Schimmel, Dunton, 161.

34. John H. McGinnis, "Taos," Southwest Review 13 (October 1927): 41.

35. Jerry Bywaters, "Dunton And West On Canvas," The Dallas Morning News, 21 November 1937.

36. Lea Rosson DeLong, Nature's Forms/Nature's Forces: The Art of Alexandre Hogue, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984): 10-13.

37. Hogue, "Dunton: Appreciation," 55.

38. Ibid., 59.

39. Alexandre Hogue, telephone interview by Michael R. Grauer, Canyon, Texas, 28 May 1991.

40. Wanda Corn, Grant Wood: The Regionalist Vision, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1983): 37.

41. Ibid., 40.

42. Ibid., 74.

43. Grant Wood as cited in Corn, Wood, 42.

44. Dennis, Wood, 99.

45. Corn, Wood, 73.

46. "U. S. Scene," Time 24 (24 DEcember 1934): 24-27, as cited in Corn, Wood, 152, f.n. 66.

47. Dunton quoted in Robinson, "Dunton -- Westerner," 502.

48. For a complete discussion of these portraits see Schimmel, Dunton, pp. 71-100.

49. W. Herbert Dunton to Alfred W. Clutter, 10 November 1926, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Peters.

50. Dennis, Wood, 86.

51. W. Herbert Dunton, "The 'Rigging' of a Texan," The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 47 (July 1943): 1-4.

52. Dennis, Wood, 85.

53. Corn, Wood, 86.

54. Ibid., 86.

55. Old Texas and Texas of Old may very well have been made exclusively for the Texas market, as well.

56. Bywaters, "Dunton."

57. Two virtually identical versions of this painting, both finished works, exist. The larger version is in Nelda C. Stark's collection, the smaller is in a private collection and is included in the exhibition.

58. After his move to Taos in 1914, and the relinquishment of the sure income from illustration commissions, Dunton lived near poverty for the rest of his life. While his exhibitions in the Midwest, Oklahoma, and Texas were immensely popular and well-attended, few sales resulted.

59. W. Herbert Dunton to Harold Dow Bugbee, 26 January 1928, Harold Dow Bugbee Papers, Research Center, Panhandle-Plains HIstorical Museum, Canyon, Texas (hereinafter HDB Papers).

60. Margaret Seewald, an artist and etcher from Amarillo, Texas, printed a plate drawn by Dunton at her studio in Amarillo. The proofs are as yet unlocated.

61. Dunton to Bugbee, 26 January 1928, HDB Papers.

62. Dunton to Bugbee, 13 July 1928, HDB Papers.

63. J. Evetts Haley, Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1949), 458. Unfortunately, Haley failed to mention the date of the sitting, resulting in an incorrect date in Schimmel's biography. Nor did Haley mention that it was Goodnight's second wife, Corinne (whom he had married in 1927 when he was ninety-one), who had begged the Colonel to sit to Dunton.

64. B. Byron Price, Crafting a Southwestern Masterpiece: J. Evetts Haley and Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman, (Midland: Nita Stewart Haley Memorial Library, 1986), 9-10, and J. Evetts Haley, interview by Michael R. Grauer, Midland, Texas, 25 June 1990.

65. W. Herbert Dunton to J. Evetts Haley, J. Evetts Haley Collection, Research Center, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas.

66. Dunton to Bugbee, 27 February 1935, HDB Papers.

67. Dunton to Bugbee, 15 July 1935, HDB Papers.

68. W. Herbert Dunton, "Bear," n.d.

69. Dunton to Bugbee, 29 July 1932, HDB Papers.


About the author

John Hazeltine, director of TFAO, toured west Texas art museums in April, 2013. While visiting the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum he met Michael R. Grauer, Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs/ Curator of Art at the Museum. Mr. Grauer has written several texts published in Resource Library. They are listed in TFAO's Author Study and Index. (left: Michael R. Grauer, 2013. Photo by John Hazeltine)

The Museum's website said of Mr. Grauer as of 2013:

Michael Grauer directs PPHM's curatorial staff, is the museum's Curator of Art, and oversees the weapons, sports, and cowboy and ranching artifact collections. Born in Kansas City, Kansas, he received a bachelor's degree with a double major in art history and painting from the University of Kansas and a master's degree in Art History from Southern Methodist University. After college he worked at the Smithsonian American Museum of Art in Washington, D.C. Michael didn't always plan on an art career, though. Originally, he wanted to play professional football or be a cowboy. Instead he went to art school, "because I could draw horses better than anyone and I didn't know what else to do." If Michael could live anywhere else in the world, it would be Taos, New Mexico (for the art scene) or Saskatchewan (because the name "sounds cool").

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Resource Library Magazine.

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 2003 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

Copyright 2013 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.