Published: July 13, 2004
The work of Herbert “Buck” Dunton (1878-1936), one of the founding members of the Taos Society of Artists in New Mexico, is the subject of “Taos Modern: Paintings by Herbert Dunton” from the Stark Museum of Art, Orange, Texas, on view in the Alice Pratt Brown Gallery in the Caroline Wiess Law Building of the Museum of Fine Art, Houston, July 17-January 30.
This is the fourth in a series of exhibitions presented since 2001 in partnership with the Stark Museum of Art. The first exhibition of Dunton’s work at the MFAH took place in 1925, at the peak of his popularity. Taos Modern presents ten paintings and 20 oil sketches.
Like Frederic Remington, Dunton was an academically trained artist who began his career as an illustrator of Western scenes. Dunton’s early works reflect a nostalgic ideal of the West – a land of wide-open spaces and heroic cowboys. His fascination with the West was such that he made a number of trips west between 1896 and 1911, working as a cowboy or hunter in the summers. He first visited the village of Taos, N.M., in 1912, moved there permanently in 1914, and, in 1925, became a founding member of the first artist colony west of the Mississippi.
Dunton’s early career coincided with the enormously popular interest in the cowboy in the first years of the Twentieth Century, and he was published in magazines such as Harper’s Monthly, Collier’s and Cosmopolitan Magazine.
Later, in Taos, Dunton became increasingly preoccupied with issues of color and form in response to modern artistic developments and sensibilities. In contrast to some of his colleagues who were drawn to a romanticized view of the American Indian, Dunton chose as his subjects the thick foliage and animal life of Taos’s outlying areas. In works such as “McMullin Guide,” circa 1934, and “October Gold,” circa 1930, Dunton’s dynamic brushwork and painterly palette transform the canvases into lyrical patterns of color and light. “Taos Modern” provides visitors an opportunity to see his work in the context of the MFAH’s small but choice selection of Taos pictures, as well as its large holdings of works by Remington.
The Stark Museum of Art, which opened to the public in 1978 as one of many projects initiated by the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, is considered one of the United States’ fine collections of Western American art. The collections of the museum reflect the Stark family’s interest in the land, the wildlife and the people of the American West. H.J. Lutcher Stark, who focused on acquiring American paintings, drawings, sculptures, books, folios and prints, formed the collection primarily in the 1940s.
Initially Stark’s interests focused upon the works of contemporary Southwestern painters including the Taos Society of Artists whom he encountered and befriended en route to his vacation ranch in Colorado. Over the years, his interests expanded to include the earlier works of such artists of the American West as George Catlin, Alfred Jacob Miller, John Mix Stanley, Paul Kane, Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Remington.
“Taos Modern” is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Stark Museum of Art, and is presented under the direction of Emily Neff, curator of American painting and sculpture.
The Caroline Wiess Law Building is at 1001 Bissonnet Street. The museum is open to the public Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 am to 5 pm; Thursday, 10 am to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday, 10 am to 7 pm, and Sunday, 12:15 to 7 pm. For information, 713-639-7300.
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