Born: Manchester, South Dakota 1884
Died: Tenafly, New Jersey 1952
Important magazine illustrator of the prairie
Dunn was born in a sod house in the Red Stone Valley, Dakota Territory. Large and powerful, he earned his art tuition by “sod-busting” for neighboring homesteaders. After rural school he studied art in 1901 at State College, Brookings, the pupil of Ada Caldwell, before attending the Art Institute of Chicago 1902-04. On invitation from Howard Pyle, he studied at Chadds Ford 1904-06, becoming deeply influenced by Pyle’s philosophy. Dunn opened his own studio in Leonia, NJ in 1906, an immediate success as an illustrator. In WWI, Dunn was official artist with the AEF.
Dunn was prolific magazine illustrator specializing in Western subjects. He also taught at Grand Central School of Art. His pupils included Burt Procter, Von Schmidt, Delano, Dye, Shope, Clymer, Hal Stone, Tepper, Edmund F Ward, Frank Street, Jack Roberts, Robert Wagoner, Dean Cornwell. In 1950, Dunn gave to South Dakota State College a collection of his paintings on prairie subjects. The gift is commemorated on a roadside marker near Dunn’s boyhood home. A memorial art center was dedicated at the college to house “The Harvey Dunn Collection and Archives.” The more popular paintings like The Prairie Is My Garden were reproduced for sale as prints. Dunn’s favorite subjects were the sod-busting pioneers, not the shoot-em-ups of Remington and Russell. He called the purpose of an illustration the setting of the stage for the reader to imagine the story. His intent was to select an incident not described in detail in the text so the illustration could control the mood. In painting, Dunn first established the darker tones of the design to provide the basic pattern for color values and contrasts. He taught that figure drawing started with the head, which had to be kept most interesting.
Resource: SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing