January 7, 2012

The Art of Dennis Miller Bunker

Dennis Miller Bunker (1861 – 1890) was one of earliest painters in America to adopt the new innovative impressionistic style in the late nineteenth century. His career promptly spiraled up to the top of the art world and then came to crashing halt, as he died unexpectedly from meningitis at the young age of twenty-nine. At the time of his death he was well respected and personal friends with other legendary artists such as John Singer Sargent and Thomas Wilmer Dewing.


(Bunker, Dennis Miller. Pink Rose. c. 1886. oil on canvas.)

Bunker was born along with three sisters in New York City to a modest family of Quaker heritage. His father was the secretary and treasurer of the Union Ferry Company, which provided transportation between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Not a lot is known about Bunker’s childhood until he began to formally study art.


(Bunker, Dennis Miller. The Pool, Medfield. c. 1889. oil on canvas.)

In 1876 at the age of 15, Bunker joined the newly founded Arts Students League of New York and enrolled in New York’s Academy of Design. He was a quick study and he began to mature as a painter within only a few years. His work proved to provide great clarity with mesmerizing strength.


(Bunker, Dennis Miller. Tree. c. 1884. oil on canvas.)

Around 1880, Boat pictures and landscapes were selling at the time and Bunker was keenly aware of the art marketplace. He began to focus on painting marine subjects, mostly boats at low tide and so he sold well. He soon moved into figure and landscapes, although when he couldn’t afford to pay for a model he painted flowers.


(Bunker, Dennis Miller. Jessica. c. 1890. oil on canvas.)

Bunker left New York to study abroad. He travelled to Paris and enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts which was a very prestigious art school. It had an extremely rigorous training program and it gave him the perfect credibility to become an art teacher at a young age, when he returned to America.


(Bunker, Dennis Miller. Cottage. c. 1889. oil on canvas.)

At the youthful age of twenty-four, Bunker began teaching at the Cowles Art School in Boston. He taught cast drawing, artistic anatomy and composition. That same year, he was given his first solo exhibit at Noyes and Blakeslee Gallery, which opened unimaginable opportunities for him.


(Bunker, Dennis Miller. Yellow Rose. c. 1887. oil on canvas. museum.)

Bunker’s work is highly memorable for its individuality and force. In its limited use of color, alluring modeling of form and aesthetic elegance, Bunker’s captivating and unusual paintings successfully make the perfect balance between abstraction and representation and his work is much appreciated here!

Enjoy! :)

Reference: Hirshler, E. Dennis Miller Bunker, An American Impressionist. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 1994.

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