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 Frank Virgil Dudley  (1868 - 1957)

About: Frank Virgil Dudley
 

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Lived/Active: Indiana/Illinois/Wisconsin      Known for: dune landscape painting, florals

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Ad Code: 3
Frank Virgil Dudley
from Auction House Records.
At the Beach
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Frank Virgil Dudley was known as the "Painter of the Dunes," because of his fascination with the Indiana dunes on Lake Michigan, beginning with his first visit in 1911 to the area when he was hiking with the Prairie Club of Chicago.  This organization was one of the "contemporary manifestations of a burgeoning spirit of regional identity that championed local cultural expression and the appreciation and preservation of the local landscape." (Greenhouse, 96)

In 1916, Dudley decided to focus on the Indiana Dunes as his primary subject matter.  In 1918, thirty of his paintings were featured in a Chicago Art Institute exhibit, "Western Scenes", which was co-sponsored by three other clubs also devoted to conservation:  Friends of Our Native Landscape, the Dunes Pageant Association and the Conservation Council.  Reportedly, many viewers were greatly surprised that the dune paintings reflected scenes of unspoiled beauty from Indiana, their own region, rather than more 'exotic' places in the United States, East and West.

Dudley, born in Delavan, Wisconsin, had worked as a youth with his father as a house painter.  Frank was one of three brothers born to deaf-mute parents, James A. and Flora Virgil Dudley. Communicating in sign language, James Dudley taught his sons the craft of house painting. James also had some skill as a draftsman and easel painter, and Frank likely received his earliest art instruction from his father. He also studied easel painting with Albert McCoy, who was a visiting artist from Chicago, and then moved to Chicago where he took a job as a commercial engraver.  He attended night classes at the Art Institute where he studied under John H. Vanderpoel and Charles Boutwood. Around this time he also had an introduction to Impressionism by way of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
 
Frank married Haley Boxwell several years before their son Paul was born in 1898, and he supported his family with his artwork. Following the sudden death of his wife in 1904, Frank Dudley turned to plein air landscape painting.
 
In 1911, he visited the Indiana Dunes for the first time, and began to record the scenery there. In 1913 he married his second wife, Maida Lewis, with whom he spent the rest of his life. With Maida often seated nearby, he painted the Dunes in all seasons.

In 1921, having gained much positive attention for his regional focus, Dudley closed the small art supply business he was running in Chicago, and built a cabin for full-time painting on Lake Michigan near Chesterton, Indiana.  He was able to build the cabin with money he received from winning the Logan Prize of the Art Institute for his painting, Duneland, and from then selling the painting to the Art Institute.

Dudley's studio and cottage became a gathering place for many painters attracted to the Indiana Dunes and to the variances of the shoreline.  The artists, including Dudley, became champions of preservation for the area, and the beauty of their canvases stirred the public pressure that led in 1923 to the establishment of two-thousand acres as the Indiana Dunes State Park.

At that time, Dudley made an arrangement to be able to keep his cabin as rental property within the park in exchange for one painting a year donated to the Indiana State Department of Conservation.  Living in the Park for over thirty years, he died in 1957.

Exhibition venues include the Hoosier Salon, Art Institute of Chicago, Cedar Rapids Art Association, Corcoran Gallery and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Sources include:

Wendy Greenhouse, "Frank Virgil Dudley", Union League Club of Chicago Art Collection, Marianne Richter, Editor

Peter Hastings Falk, Who Was Who in American Art
 
Chicago Tribune, 3 Sept. 1967.

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