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 William Herbert (Buck) Dunton  (1878 - 1936)

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Lived/Active: New Mexico/Maine / Mexico      Known for: Western genre-figure painting, illustration

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born on a farm near Augusta, Maine, W. Herbert Dunton became a leading American illustrator and renowned painter in the early art colony of Taos, New Mexico.  His specialty was painting the untamed West before it disappeared.

Especially helpful to his career was the patronage of Texans Nelda and H.J. Lutcher Stark whose collection founded the Stark Museum in Orange, Texas.  They bought hundreds of Dunton's paintings during the Depression because his renderings of animals and landscape greatly appealed to Texans, and their Dunton paintings became the largest collection in America by that artist.

When he was a youngster, Dunton spent much time roaming the woods and fields around Augusta with a gun and sketch-book, and by the time he was sixteen, he was selling drawings and stories of outdoor life to local newspapers and to the Boston Sunday Globe.

Dunton's family encouraged his obvious art talent by giving him materials and freeing his time from farm chores.  At age eighteen, he went to Montana for a lengthy period and sketched big game, and from that time, frequently returned West, often working as a ranch hand.  He also went to Oregon and Old Mexico where he worked on cattle ranches and collected frontier artifacts.

He studied art in Boston at Cowles School and in New York at the Art Students League, and his teacher and fellow Salmagundi Club member Ernest Blumenschein invited him to Taos, New Mexico.  In 1912, he opened a summer studio in Taos and settled there in 1921.

Meanwhile he had become one of America's top-ranking illustrators, with a specialty of lively western outdoor scenes, often showing dramatic episodes such as galloping cowboys to avoid a cloudburst.  Some of his best-known illustrations were of Zane Grey novels, but from the time of his move to New Mexico, he accepted few illustration commissions.

In New Mexico, he became one of the founders of the Taos Society of Artists, whose purpose was promoting sales of the local painters.  Unlike many of his Taos peers, he focused on subjects other than Indians and landscape and often portrayed cowboys, animals and the vanishing frontiersman.  One of these subjects was Frank Riley, a sheriff of Pima county, Arizona, whom he painted in 1913.

Sources include:
David Hunt, "W.H. Dunton: Old West Revisited", American Art Review, 6/2003

Richard Hunter and David Hunt, "Stark Museum of Art", American Art Review, 12, 2001

Michael Grauer, "The Remington of the Southwest", Persimmon Hill, Spring 1997

Biography from Mark Sublette Modern:
William Herbert Dunton, know later in life as “Buck,” was born in Augusta, Maine, in 1878. His lifelong passion for the outdoors was nurtured from an early age by his grandfather, who took him on expeditions, teaching him about hunting and fishing. Drawing the outdoors followed naturally.  As a child, Dunton was self-taught, developing a precise style that would lead to a successful career as an illustrator.  He first sold drawings to a magazine at age 16, when he quit school to work as a professional illustrator.

Dunton’s precocious talent was further educated with classes at the Cowles Art School in Boston, and at the Art Student’s League in New York City.  The magazines that Dunton work for included Harper’s Weekly, Collier’s, Woman’s Home Companion, Scribners, Cosmopolitan, and several others.  He also illustrated numerous books, including several of the classic cowboy stories of Zane Grey.  It was the search for subject material for illustrations of western life that first brought Dunton out West, to Montana, in 1896.  For the next 15 years, he spent every summer traveling the western states, doing sketches that would become the basis for his magazine illustrations.  It was during this period that Dunton began to grow weary, and eventually fed up with the pressures of deadlines, and the demands of editors.

In 1912, Dunton was enrolled at the Art Student’s League for a class with Ernest Blumenschein, the well-known western painter who had been instrumental in establishing the artist colony at Taos, New Mexico.  It was not long before Blumenschein suggested that Dunton would be happier living out west, in Taos. Dunton complied that very summer, intent on leaving the pressures of New York behind in order to focus seriously on his painting.  He would remain in Taos for the rest of his life.

Settling in Taos, Dunton pursued his favorite subject matter with free rein: The open range, hunters, cowboys on horseback, and scenes representing native life before the influx of Europeans.  He seemed particularly concerned with recording the ways and appearances of the Old West, a lifestyle that he felt was significant, and was fading before his very eyes.

The West has passed – more’s the pity.  In another 25 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 the unadulterated real thing…

And hand down the real thing he did.  Dunton exerted his skills for rendering detail to achieve exact authenticity in clothing, equipment, and the powerful muscles of horses.  The precision of his painting, along with the hint of drama each contained, were the hallmarks of his work.  In addition to painting, Dunton also did precise lithographs of animals, a technique he had acquired in New York when the Depression made it necessary to produce less expensive art work.

For some time, Dunton continued to do illustrations for magazines while living in New Mexico, in order to make enough money to live.  There were no galleries in Taos at that time, so in order to sell their paintings, the artists Blumenschein, Sharp, Couse, Phillips, and Berninghaus, along Dunton, arranged traveling exhibitions to promote their work – the official beginning of the Taos Society of Artists.

Dunton remained in Taos as the Society grew.  One notable friend of his was the Russian painter Gaspard, who was not warmly welcomed by most others there. Dunton, however, sought painting instruction from Gaspard, and in turn advised the Russian on the best places for hiking and fishing, as they shared an intense love of outdoor activities.  Their collaboration is interesting, because their painting styles were so radically different.  The fact that Dunton sought instruction from Gaspard suggests that he was looking to branch out and develop his painting style further. However, his style remained little changed, and he succeeded in attracting several prominent collectors including Douglas Fairbanks, Franklin Roosevelt, and H.J. Lutcher Stark. The Stark Museum in Orange, Texas still houses the largest collection of Dunton’s work in the U.S.

In 1922 Dunton resigned from the Taos Society of Artists, likely due to a personal conflict, and from then on arranged solo exhibitions of his work.  For the next 13 years he exhibited in several states, from New Mexico to New York.  In 1923 he was commissioned to do a three paneled mural for the Missouri State Capitol.

Dunton’s health began its long decline in 1928, when he was injured by a horse, and began suffering from ulcers.  He continued to deteriorate, and was finally diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1935.  Buck Dunton died in Taos in 1936, at the age of 57.


Bibliography:

1. Bickerstaff, Laura, Pioneer Artists of Taos, Sage Books, Denver, 1955, p. 55-68.
2. Coke, Van Daren, Taos and Santa Fe, The Artist’s Environment 1882-1942, University of New Mexico Press, 1963, pp. 22-23.
3. Luhan, Mabel Dodge, Taos and Its Artists, Duell Sloan and Pearce, New York, 1947.
4. Schimmel, Julie, W. Herbert Dunton – The Man and His Art, Sports Afield, Feb. 1988, pp. 94-99.
5. Exhibition Catalog, William Herbert “Buck” Dunton, June 2001 – May 2002, Stark Museum, Orange, TX.
6. Dunton Family Organization, W. Herbert Dunton – His Life and Artwork.






Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery Santa FeTucson:
William Herbert Dunton, known later in life as "Buck," was born in Augusta, Maine, in 1878. His lifelong passion for the outdoors was nurtured from an early age by his grandfather, who took him on expeditions, teaching him about hunting and fishing. Drawing the outdoors followed naturally. As a child, Dunton was self-taught, developing a precise style that would lead to a successful career as an illustrator. He first sold drawings to a magazine at age 16, when he quit school to work as a professional illustrator.

William Herbert Dunton's precocious talent was further educated with classes at the Cowles Art School in Boston, and at the Art Student's League in New York City. The magazines that Dunton worked for included Harper's Weekly, Collier's, Woman's Home Companion, Scribners, Cosmopolitan, and several others. He also illustrated numerous books, including several of the classic cowboy stories of Zane Grey. It was the search for subject material for illustrations of western life that first brought Dunton out West, to Montana, in 1896. For the next 15 years, he spent every summer traveling the western states, doing sketches that would become the basis for his magazine illustrations. It was during this period that Dunton began to grow weary, and eventually fed up with the pressures of deadlines, and the demands of editors.

In 1912, William Herbert Dunton was enrolled at the Art Student's League for a class with Ernest Blumenschein, the well-known western painter who had been instrumental in establishing the artist colony at Taos, New Mexico. It was not long before Blumenschein suggested that Dunton would be happier living out west, in Taos. William Herbert Dunton complied that very summer, intent on leaving the pressures of New York behind in order to focus seriously on his painting. He would remain in Taos for the rest of his life.

Settling in Taos, William Herbert Dunton pursued his favorite subject matter with free rein: The open range, hunters, cowboys on horseback, and scenes representing native life before the influx of Europeans. He seemed particularly concerned with recording the ways and appearances of the Old West, a lifestyle that he felt was significant but fading before his very eyes.

"The West has passed - more's the pity. In another 25 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 the unadulterated real thing..."

And hand down the real thing he did. William Herbert Dunton exerted his skills for rendering detail to achieve exact authenticity in clothing, equipment, and the powerful muscles of horses. The precision of his painting, along with the hint of drama, were the hallmarks of his work. In addition to painting, Dunton also did precise lithographs of animals, a technique he had acquired in New York when the Depression made it necessary to produce less expensive art work.

For some time, William Herbert Dunton continued to do illustrations for magazines while living in New Mexico, in order to make enough money to live. There were no galleries in Taos at that time, so in order to sell their paintings, the artists Blumenschein, Sharp, Couse, Phillips, and Berninghaus, along with Dunton, arranged traveling exhibitions to promote their work - the official beginning of the Taos Society of Artists.

William Herbert Dunton remained in Taos as the Society grew. One notable friend of his was the Russian painter Gaspard, who was not warmly welcomed by most others there. Dunton, however, sought painting instruction from Gaspard, and in turn advised the Russian on the best places for hiking and fishing, as they shared an intense love of outdoor activities. Their collaboration is interesting, because their painting styles were so radically different. The fact that Dunton sought instruction from Gaspard suggests that he was looking to branch out and develop his painting style further. However, his style remained little changed, and he succeeded in attracting several prominent collectors including Douglas Fairbanks, Franklin Roosevelt, and H.J. Lutcher Stark. The Stark Museum in Orange, Texas still houses the largest collection of Dunton's work in the U.S.

In 1922 William Herbert Dunton resigned from the Taos Society of Artists, likely due to a personal conflict, and from then on arranged solo exhibitions of his work. For the next 13 years he exhibited in several states, from New Mexico to New York. In 1923 he was commissioned to do a three paneled mural for the Missouri State Capitol.

William Herbert Dunton's health began its long decline in 1928, when he was injured by a horse, and began suffering from ulcers. He continued to deteriorate, and was finally diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1935. Buck Dunton died in Taos in 1936, at the age of 57.

Bibliography

1. Bickerstaff, Laura, Pioneer Artists of Taos, Sage Books, Denver, 1955, p. 55-68.
2. Coke, Van Daren, Taos and Santa Fe, The Artist's Environment 1882-1942, University of New Mexico Press, 1963, pp. 22-23.
3. Luhan, Mabel Dodge, Taos and Its Artists, Duell Sloan and Pearce, New York, 1947.
4. Schimmel, Julie, W. Herbert Dunton - The Man and His Art, Sports Afield, Feb. 1988, pp. 94-99.
5. Exhibition Catalog, William Herbert "Buck" Dunton, June 2001 - May 2002, Stark Museum, Orange, TX.
6. Dunton Family Organization, W. Herbert Dunton - His Life and Artwork.

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, II:
William Herbert Dunton
Born: Augusta, Maine 1878
Died: Albuquerque, New Mexico 1936

Important Western illustrator, painter, muralist, lithographer

W. Herbert Dunton worked as a ranch hand in his youth.  He studied at Cowles Art School in Boston, Massachusetts and briefly at the Art Students League in 1912, the pupil of Joseph de Camp and E L Blumenschein who told Dunton about Taos.

In 1912, Dunton opened his summer studio in Taos. He was invited to join Blumenchein, Sharp, Couse, Phillips, and Berninghaus in the formation of the Taos Society of Artists.  Dunton worked as an illustrator in Western life for the popular magazines, sketching the West in the summer and composing his illustrations to order in the winter.  He settled permanently in Taos in 1921 to avoid the pressure of illustration deadlines.

A picturesque character familiarly known as Buck, he was one of the most popular of the Taos painters.  He wrote “Painters of Taos” for American Magazine of Art in 1922, emphasizing the advantages of light, color, and Indian life.

In Taos, Dunton was a successful illustrator for Harper’s and Scribner’s, his subject matter usually Western or outdoors like that of his good friend Philip R. Goodwin.  He also created book jackets for Western classics.  In addition to his illustrations, he painted and exhibited widely, keeping his paintings simple and nostalgic: “The West has passed—more’s the pity.  In another 25 years, the old-time westerner will have gone with the buffalo and the antelope.  I’m going to hand down to posterity a bit of the unadulterated real thing.

Source:
SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing

Biography from Nedra Matteucci Galleries:
W. HERBERT DUNTON (1859-1936)

Though a native of Augusta, Maine, Herbert Dunton, who called himself Buck, was a true Western outdoorsman at heart. His early passion for drawing was encouraged by his parents, who provided him with neatly-bound sketchbooks in which to record the animals and scenery of his wilderness adventures. Though a self-taught artist, Dunton quickly became recognized for his many drawings and was one of the nation's top-ranking illustrators by his early twenties.

For the next fifteen years, Dunton maintained a frantic schedule of summers on the Western range living as a real cowboy and winters in New York applying himself to his numerous commissions. Dunton worked from firsthand experience and became an expert in Western outdoor life, illustrating nearly 50 books and hundreds of articles relating to the subject.

A chance meeting in 1911 at the Salmagundi Club in New York with fellow member Ernest Blumenschein led to Dunton's move to Taos the following year. Having made a sizable fortune in commercial art, Dunton chose to pursue his painting career exclusively. He became the second artist, after Bert Phillips, to establish a full-time residence in Taos. He was also one of the six founding members of the Taos Society of Artists.

Dunton, unlike the other artists of the group, continued to favor animals and the life of the cowboy as themes for his paintings. Though he painted Indian subjects, the vanishing West of the mountain man and cowboy was the subject of his artistic vision. As his compositions and style developed, his natural abilities became more evident. His unique style of painting in bold, patterned brushstrokes of rich color is as distinctive as his Western themes and reflects the character of this Taos master.








Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery:
William Herbert "Buck" Dunton was born in Augusta, Maine in 1878. In his youth Dunton worked as a ranch hand before choosing art as his true calling. He studied at Cowles Art School in Boston, Massachusetts. He also studied at the Arts Students League in New York in 1912 where he was a pupil of Joseph De Camp and Ernest L. Blumenschein.

Having learned from Blumenschein of the art community in Taos, Dunton moved there in 1915 to open a summer studio after an intial visit to the area in 1912. He was invited to join Blumenschein, Joseph Henry Sharp, Bert Geer Phillips and Eanger Irving Couse in the formation of the prestigious Taos Society of Artists.

Working through the winter as a successful illustrator for such popular magazines as "Harper's" and "Scribner's", he spent his summers sketching the West and absorbing Western life to feed his imagination. The pressure of the magazines and their deadlines drove him to move permanently to Taos in 1921.

"When I was a little boy and lived in Maine, I read everything about the West I could get my hands on - not dime novels, but everything authentic. I lived the life in prospect. Then I lived it in actuality, living with cowpunchers in Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona - all along the cattle strip. Now that those days are gone, I live it in retrospect and in my pictures."

His works are held by many important museums and collections including the Amon Carter Museum, the Anschutz Collection, Witte Memorial Museum, and the White House.

Biography from Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum:
Born in Augusta, Maine, W. Herbert Dunton had a childhood yearning to see the West, which resulted in 1896 to his first trip to Montana, where he worked as a cowboy and hunter. During the following fifteen years he cowboyed or hunted in Wyoming, Colorado, Oregon, New Mexico, Montana, and Mexico, during the summers, and studied art or painted in the East during the winters.

After a stint at the Cowles Art School in Boston in 1897, and further studies with Andreas M. Andersen, William L. Taylor, and Joseph Rodefer DeCamp, Dunton began his illustration career in earnest. He married in 1900, moved to New York in 1903, and his illustration career boomed. In 1908, Dunton was elected to the artists' social fraternity, the Salmagundi Club, and around 1911 he continued his studies at the Art Students League under Frederick C. Yohn, Frank V. DuMond, and Ernest Blumenschein.

Strained by the pressures of illustration, Dunton first visited Taos, New Mexico, in June 1912, at the urging of Blumenschein. Calling Taos and the surrounding area "the ideal place for me," he returned the following two summers and moved there permanently in 1915, forfeiting the sure income of commercial illustration and living near poverty the rest of his life. Beginning that year his paintings were accepted to the annual exhibitions at the National Academy of Design at New York, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts at Philadelphia, and the Art Institute of Chicago, a practice he continued until 1935.

In July 1915, Dunton helped found the Taos Society of Artists with Berninghaus, Blumenschein, Couse, Phillips, and Sharp, and exhibited with the Taos Society all over the United States during its annual exhibition circuits. He resigned from the Society in 1922, however, perhaps because of a disparaging remark made by Walter Ufer about Blumenschein.

Forced to market his work alone, between 1922 and the early 1930s, Dunton arranged one-man exhibitions in places such as 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 1923 he was commissioned to paint three murals for the Missouri State Capitol.

With the effects of the Depression affecting sales, Dunton turned to portrait drawings and lithography to make art that was affordable during lean times. He also painted under the Public Works of Art Project in New Mexico.

Dunton's health began to decline as early as 1928 when he was injured by a "rambunctious mare" and suffered from duodenal ulcers. His health continued to deteriorate and, in 1935, prostrate cancer was discovered followed by diagnoses of stomach and lung cancer. On 18 March 1936, W. Herbert "Buck" Dunton died at Taos at age 57.

The Stark Museum of Art owns nearly 400 Dunton works. Selected collections are at the Eiteljorg Museum, Kit Carson Memorial Museums, Museum of New Mexico, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, The Rockwell Museum, and the San Antonio Art League.

Michael R. Grauer
26 August 2005

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