Harvey Dunn

Artist Profile

HARVEY DUNN: 1884-1952

Harvey Dunn in his studio

Harvey Dunn in his studio.

Harvey Dunn was a large man with a powerful presence. He was a humorous talker, who knew what he liked and what he disliked. If some found him a bit brusque and rather direct, he also had a romantic and gentle side. Born on a homestead near Manchester, Dakota Territory in 1884, Dunn traveled widely in his life, but his heart never left the Dakota prairie.

At the age of eighteen he enrolled at South Dakota Agricultural College in Brookings. There his art teacher, Miss Ada Caldwell recognized his ability and urged him to attend the Chicago Institute of Art, where he studied for two years. Dunn went on to study in Wilmington, Delaware under the foremost illustrator in America at the time, Howard Pyle. Dunn said of his teacher, “He made me unafraid to be dramatic.”

Artist and Teacher

Dakota Woman by Harvey Dunn

Dakota Woman, oil painting by Harvey Dunn

Dunn went on to co-found the Leonia School of Illustration where he taught and stressed the ‘majesty of simple things’ to his students. During World War I, he and a small group of artists and illustrators were sent to the battlefields of France to illustrate the realities of war for the military, producing pictures for publication and for public relations efforts. After the war, many of Dunn’s illustrations were featured on the cover of The American Legion Monthly.

Dunn became known as an illustrator for well-known magazines, Cosmopolitan, Harper¬ís, Scribner’s, Saturday Evening Post and others such as Colliers. While he never again lived in his home state, Dunn made frequent trips to South Dakota. He stayed with his sister near Manchester where he sketched the prairie with pastels. The men and women of Dunn’s prairie paintings’, “symbolize the American pioneer spirit: the courage to live each day, the cheerful endurance of hardship and privation, and a hope for a better world tomorrow.” Many of Harvey Dunn’s paintings are also on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute and at the South Dakota Art Museum.

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