Augustus William Dunbier
(1888 - 1977)
Augustus William Dunbier was active/lived in Nebraska, Arizona. Augustus Dunbier is known for landscape, portrait, and still life painting, teaching.
Augustus William Dunbier
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Biography from the Archives of askART
Born on a farm in Polk County, Nebraska, during the famous blizzard of
1888, Augustus Dunbier became Nebraska's most prominent and widely
traveled artist in the early to mid 20th century. Working until
the year before his death at age 89, he painted landscapes, still
life, and portraits in a style that others, but not he, labelled
Biography from the Archives of askART
At age 10, he saw his first professional art work
at the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha, and this exposure set the
direction of his life. A year later, he returned with his parents to
Germany from where his family had emigrated, and in 1907, he enrolled
for seven years of study at the Dusseldorf Academy, known for its
instruction in genre and history painting. However, Impressionist Adolf
Munzer had the most influence on him as did his private plein-aire
painting excursions into the countryside with fellow students.
to America, he spent a semester at the Chicago Art Institute during the winter of
1914 to 1915, and began a long association with Walter Ufer, a
teacher at the Institute.
In 1916, Dunbier established his
studio in Omaha, Nebraska. It was a city that was not particularly
art-oriented, but he made a living as a full-time painter and art teacher. He had many
portrait commissions, did professional restoration for institutions,
most particularly the Joslyn Museum, and taught art workshops
throughout the state. For years he gave private lessons in his studio
and also taught at the Joslyn Art Museum, the YMCA, and the Jewish Community
He traveled frequently, and in 1920, at the invitation of
Ufer, went to Taos for the first time, and then did so every successive summer except
during World War II. Ufer and Eanger Couse, also a Taos painter,
successfully sponsored Dunbier's membership in the Salmagundi Club of
New York City.
In 1926 and 1928, he painted in Alaska where he
lived at Sitka, and from there made day trips into the wilderness. He
exhibited paintings from his first Alaska trip at the Seattle Art
Association and the San Francisco Art Association. He also painted on
the East Coast with Emil Gruppe at Gloucester, Massachusetts, and with George Luks in New
York City. In 1930, he began painting in Southern California and in Arizona,
spending much time at the Grand Canyon, the Flagstaff area, and at the
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, when his son
Roger was at Oxford University in England, he did numerous European
landscapes including English country village architecture. In 1963,
when Roger moved to Arizona, the artist and his wife began spending
their winters there. He completed hundreds of desert landscapes, which
were sold through the Rosequist Gallery in Tucson, and the Austin
Gallery in Scottsdale. He also made regular painting trips to
California and the Northwest Coast, but his home base was Omaha where
he had a sixty-five year career.
Lonnie Pierson Dunbier, daughter-in-law of the artist
Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery
Born in Osceola, NE on Jan. 1, 1888, Augustus Dunbier studied in Germany at the Royal Academy in Düsseldorf until the onset of WWI and then continued at the Art Institute of Chicago.
While based in Omaha, he painted widely in the U.S. and spent long periods in California after 1922. He died in Omaha, NE on Sept. 11, 1977.
Exhibition: NW Expo, 1918 (hon. mention); Nebraska Expo, 1922; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1925; San Francisco Art Association, 1926; Salmagundi Club, 1927.
Omaha Public Library; Governor's Mansion (Lincoln); Joslyn Museum; Portland (OR) Museum.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Interview with the artist or his/her family; Who's Who in American Art
1936-76; American Art Review, October 2001.Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here
Gus Dunbier was known for his colorful impressionist landscape paintings.
Biography from Taos Gallery
Dunbier was born to a German-immigrant family on their farm in Polk County, Nebraska. The family returned to Germany in 1899, and in 1907 Dunbier enrolled at the Royal Academy in Dusseldorf. He studied with the Impressionist, Adolf Munzer, until the outbreak of World War I when he returned to the United States.
Dunbier enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago for the winter of 1914-1915, studying with Walter Ufer. He served in the Army during the War, followed by a year in New York painting with George Luks. Dunbier then set up a studio in Omaha, Nebraska and established himself as a full-time easel painter. In addition to landscapes, he painted portrait commissions, did restoration work for the Joslyn Art Museum, and taught classes at the Museum, the YMCA, and his own studio.
Dunbier traveled extensively, painting most of his canvases on location. In 1920 Ufer invited him to visit Taos something he continued to do for many summers through the remainder of his life. Ufer and E.I. Couse sponsored Dunbier's membership in the Salmagundi Club.
The summers of 1926 and 1928 found Dunbier in Sitka, Alaska, and in 1930 he began painting trips to Arizona and California. From 1963 to 1970 he spent every winter but two painting in Tucson. When his son was at Oxford University in the 1950s and early 1960s he made several painting trips to Europe. He also enjoyed painting on the Northeast and Northwest coasts and in Mexico. Despite all of his travels, the majority of his paintings were Nebraska landscapes and his views of winter on the prairies were especially popular.
Augustus Dunbier was a prolific oil painter, well known for his
colorful landscapes, still life, portraits and figures. Most viewers
would describe his work as Impressionism because of his brushwork,
ability to capture brief moments in time, and the changing effects of
light and color. But hating labels of any kind, he never used that term
to describe himself.
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He was a long time resident of Omaha,
Nebraska, but traveled and painted widely throughout the United States,
Europe, and Mexico.
Certain pioneering aspects contribute to his unique career:
He was the first Nebraska artist to paint regularly in the Southwest,
where from 1920, he established a seasonal pattern of working in Taos,
New Mexico. In fact his New Mexico friendship with artists Walter Ufer
and Eanger Couse, beginning at the Chicago Art Institute, led to their
sponsorship of Dunbier's membership in the exclusive Salmagundi Club of
New York City.
2) Dunbier was the first and for many years the only Nebraska-born painter to earn his living solely from his art.
Of the early Nebraska painters, he was the most academically
'credentialed' because of his seven-year classical education at the
Royal Art Academy in Dusseldorf, Germany, and a year at the Chicago Art
4) Maintaining studios in Omaha from 1915 until
1977, Dunbier had one of the longest, uninterrupted art careers of any
Born on a Polk County, farm near Stromsburg,
Dunbier, at age sixteen, moved with his parents to Germany, where
during his studies, 1907-1914, at the Royal Academy, he associated with
many noted artists working in Europe at that time. His primary
instructor at the Academy was Adolf Munzer, a prominent Impressionist.
1915, Dunbier returned to the United States and served in the US Army
Camouflage Corps. After World War I, he spent a year on the East Coast,
painting with George Luks and Robert Spencer, another Nebraska born
artist whom he joined at the artist colony in New Hope, Pennsylvania.
In the early 1920s, he spent a summer painting in Alaska, and when he
heard the Pan-American Highway had been completed to Mexico City, he
was on the road. He returned there a number of times with artist
friends or with his family.
As the years passed, Dunbier visited
and revisited just about every corner of North America, painting the
mountains of Montana and Colorado, the coasts and harbors of
Massachusetts and Oregon, and the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona.
From 1953 to 1970, he spent all but two winters painting landscapes in
and around Tucson and Phoenix, which meant a diminishment of his
popular Nebraska snow scenes.
The majority of his landscapes,
numbering over a thousand, were painted close to home in Nebraska where
he loved the hills and trees, lakes and rivers, farm scenes and
cityscapes. His canvases are testimony to the fact that Nebraska
provided more than enough excellent vistas for the trained and
experienced eye without the need to either disparage or embellish.
as a colorist, his paintings are characterized by assertive,
contrasting colors and bold brushwork. His landscapes were both
realistic and capturing of intangibles such as season, temperature,
time of day, atmospheric light, and impending weather. Dunbier
completed most of these landscapes "en plein air," entirely
out-of-doors, taking no more than several hours for each work.
whose friends called him "Gus," had a prestigious reputation as an art
instructor and during his long life, taught numerous workshops and
classes in Omaha and other communities throughout the Midwest. A tall,
pipe smoking, angular man with a unique sense of humor and an ability
to tell an entertaining story, Gus was popular with aspiring artists.
of his long time students, Jane Scott, wrote of his field trip teaching
methods: "When we arrived at the landscape spot that we had chosen, we
would each set up, and Gus would stop at each easel to see that
everyone got started right. I still remember many of the comments Gus
would make as we painted. "You want to paint the mood of the day.
Painting is like music, you need to orchestrate it. If it's rainy day,
paint the silvery effect of the day. If it's a sunny day, paint the
warm effect of the light. Don't paint what you see, . . . It's a matter
of attitude, you manipulate the colors in order to create the mood' "
(Augustus Dunbier, Exhibition Catalog, Museum of Nebraska Art,
In this same exhibition catalog, long-time
student and close friend, Alton Larsen, recalled words that Dunbier
uttered repeatedly in painting classes:
"Paint for the Love of
Color" ['Gus was a colorist. I know of no painter, past or present, who
knew more about color. . . .He used color notes as a composer uses
"Get it Keyed In!" [Gus was emphatic that the first few strokes on a canvas set the tone or key']
"Put some Love Into It!" ['Gus felt it was necessary to reach deep within oneself and put one's feeling into the work'].
"Paint Carelessly Careful." [. . .'be careful about color, value, composition and draftsmanship but careless with application'].
That Will-O-The Wisp!" ['In painting a landscape, he always worked on
location. . . . Waving a long arm out toward the subject, he would say
to a student, 'If you can't paint it with all of this hanging out there
at the end of your nose, how do you expect to do it better back in your
"There Is No Color Without Light." ['Play the light
against the shadow; the warm against the cool; atmosphere, moisture and
distance all have their effect on the intensity and quality of color'].
Do Not Paint For Posterity." ['In spite of the fact that he often made
this declaration, Gus Dunbier left the world a great wealth of art'].
his sixty-two year professional career, painting several paintings a
week, he held to his own course, undistracted by fads and progressing
steadily from canvas to canvas portraying what is now, in retrospect, a
quite marvelous variety of subjects and styles.
Collections: Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha; Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery,
Lincoln; Museum of Nebraska Art, Kearney.
Periodicals: Western Art Digest, Jan/Feb 1987, Vol. XIV, No. 1 and Southwest Art, March 1989, Vol. 18, No. 10.
Publications: Paint for the Love of Color: Augustus W. Dunbier,
Lonnie Dunbier and Marcia Kmack; (Biography published October, 2000);
Who's Who in American Art, 1923-1978; Artists of the American West,
Doris Dawdy; Art Across America, William Gerdts; Index of Artists,
Daniel Mallett; The Society of Independent Artists, Clark Marlor;
Mantle Fielding Dictionary, Glenn Opitz; A Survey of Nebraska Art,
Kearney State College; Nebraska 75, Joslyn Art Museum; and Augustus W
Dunbier, Museum of Nebraska Art.
Exhibitions: Spring 1993, Museum of Nebraska Art; Summer, 1999, Mission
San Juan Capistrano, California; Spring, 2000, Van Vechten Lineberry
Museum in Taos, New Mexico; Summer 2001 at Plains Panhandle Museum in
Canyon, Texas; Spring 2001 at the Phippen Museum in Prescott, Arizona,
and Fall, 2001 Museum of Nebraska Art in Kearney.
Lonnie Pierson Dunbier, daughter-in-law of the artist
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