Monday, April 1, 2013

Up Close: Harvey Dunn

Harvey Dunn (1884-1952) was an influential illustrator and teacher perhaps best known for illustrations of action stories, scenes from the Great War and paintings of rural life on the upper plains. His Wikipedia entry is here and further biographical information along with images is here.

Dunn is known for his vigorous brushwork and focus on the emotional content of his subject matter. That's why I decided to introduce this "Up Close" occasional series with his work.

The Kelly Collection has what is probably the outstanding holding of American illustration art by private individuals (not organizations). I was able to view part of it at The Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California towards the end of a January 12 - March 31, 2013 exhibition run. The collection concentrates on illustration art created roughly 1890-1935 and one of its purposes is to further knowledge and appreciation of illustration from that era.

Non-flash photography was allowed, so I took a large number of high-resolution photos of segments of those original works. This was to reference the artists' techniques in a manner not always easy to obtain from printed reproductions. (However, the exhibition catalog does feature a few large-scale detail reproductions.)

I thought that readers of this blog might also be interested in seeing the brushwork of master illustrators up close to increase their understanding of how the artists worked and perhaps to serve as inspiration for their own painting if they too are artists.

Below is an image of the entire illustration coupled with my work. Click on the latter to enlarge.

Night Raid - c.1927
Cover illustration for American Legion Monthly, January 1928 issue. This mage is from the Kelly Collection web site. It is copyrighted, as are all such images from that site appearing in this series.

This image segment is of the doughboy seen at the lower left. Note the variation in color between the two images; the latter seems closer to the original as seen at the exhibition, where lighting was warm rather than the cool of the Kelly site image. These difference will be apparent in many other posts of this series.

Dunn used plenty of oil paint and relied to a large degree on discrete brush strokes rather than smoothed color transitions. I find it interesting that he chose to paint the face of the doughboy using green. Other artists might well have mixed blue into skin color to create a nighttime effect. But Frederic Remington also found green useful for nigh scenes, and perhaps Dunn picked up the concept from him.

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