W. Herbert “Buck” Dunton: Twilight of the West
Taos Art Museum at Fechin House
April 29 through October 8, 2017
“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 the unadulterated real thing, if it’s the last thing I do—and I’m going to do it muy pronto.”
--W. Herbert “Buck” Dunton
In partnership with the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas, the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House announces the special exhibition “W. Herbert “Buck” Dunton: Twilight of the West” opening April 29 and running through October 8, 2017.
Many artists have loved the West and found inspiration for a uniquely “American” art in its landscapes, people, and wildlife. Among the first Anglo-American artists to settle in New Mexico after it achieved statehood, “Buck” Dunton gave up a prosperous career in illustration and settled permanently in Taos in 1915, to devote himself to his art. He brought with him an acute eye for the details of the life of the cowboy and the hunter. He also brought a deep love of the freedom of life in the wild; and most of all a tremendous urgency about preserving it in his art, even as it seemed to vanish in front of his eyes.
Though a native of Maine, William Herbert “Buck” Dunton (1878-1936) was captivated by the West from his earliest years. He loved the expeditions he shared with his grandfather into the forests of New England—learning to hunt and fish and recording his impressions with precocious skill in the notebooks he carried with him. His early passion for drawing was encouraged by his parents and, compelled by his own curiosity and delight in the outdoors, he developed a precise, personal style, and a vivid command of gesture and color.
He was similarly inspired by the popular craze for the West and the dime novels of the time, which dramatized captivating encounters between man and beast, settler and Indian, lawman and outlaw. At the age of sixteen he decided to quit school and save money to travel. He sold his first drawings to a magazine and in two years, “with a few things in a bag and a new Winchester” he headed West for the first time, launching his dual career as outdoorsman and artist.
By his early twenties Dunton had gained recognition as one of the nation's top illustrators, having set a pattern of spending summers in the West as a cowboy and hunter, and winters in New York working on illustration commissions. He drew on firsthand experience of the gear, the settings, and the activities that he was illustrating, lending his work exceptional clarity, force, and accuracy. This verisimilitude contrasted sharply with the caricatures and stereotypes typical of popular publications. He eventually illustrated nearly 50 books and hundreds of articles and was recognized as the successor to the legendary Frederick Remington.
Dunton’s acquaintance with Ernest Blumenschein at the Art Students League and at the renowned Salmagundi Club, led to Dunton's decision to visit Taos and eventually relocate there permanently in order to dedicate himself exclusively to his own artwork. "I had wanted to paint for some time," he 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." He became the second artist, after Bert Phillips, to establish a full-time residence in Taos and one of the six founding members of the Taos Society of Artists.
Unlike the other artists of the group, Dunton lived the life he depicted in his paintings. He understood that the West of the mountain man and the cowboy was giving way to the pressures of the Westward Expansion and felt a deep obligation to preserve it. John H. McGinnis, an editor for the Southwest Review, wrote that Dunton was “so intent upon seizing the vanishing life of the hunter, trapper, scout, and cowmen, that he has an earnestness of style which makes one apt to overlook his virtuosity as a painter.”
This exhibition of more than 50 works of art on loan from the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, traces the emergence of the artist from his background as a youthful explorer and illustrator, to his mature vision, capturing figures of the West, not in nostalgic re-creation, but as they appeared in their own final, valedictory years.
Public Opening: Saturday, April 29, 1 to 3 PM
Exhibition Dates: April 29 though October 8, 2016
Winter Hours (through April 30): Tuesday – Sunday 10 AM to 4 PM
Summer Hours (starting May 1): Tuesday - Sunday 10 AM to 5 PM
W. Herbert “Buck” Dunton (1878-1936) “Winter Camp of the Sioux,” circa 1916, oil on canvas, 20 1/8 x 16 1/4 inches, The Susan Janney Allen Collection, Panhandle-Plains Historic Museum.