Harvey Dunn

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Harvey Dunn, 1884-1952  Harvey Thomas Dunn was born in 1884 on the Dakota prairies where he lived on his parents' homestead until he was 17. He was a large boy who was capable of doing a man's job by the age of 14. It's a wonder that he had time for schooling, farm work and drawing. He did all three remarkably well and in 1901 he left the farm to enroll at South Dakota Agriculture College. It was there he met a young art teacher named Ada B. Caldwell who quickly recognized his talent and recommended that he continue his studies at the Chicago Art Institute.
In 1902, in his only suit and toting his belongings in a trunk, the lanky farm boy set off for the dizzying sophistication of Chicago. He earned his tuition doing odd jobs and janitor work and as a farm hand during the summer. He drew and he painted and he convinced a school of disbelievers that the hick from the prairie was an artist. At the age of 20, he convinced Howard Pyle of his talent and was accepted into the master's classes at Wilmington and Chadd's Ford.
By 1906, he was on his own, making a living in the burgeoning and competitive world of commercial illustration and selling his art to the insatiable magazine markets of the day. At right is an early illustration for Scribner's in 1907. Above left is the color cover plate (which was reproduced in b&w as the frontispiece of the book) to Rex Beach's The Silver Horde from 1909. The Pyle influence is strong, just as it was in classmates Frank Schoonover and N.C. Wyeth.
Dunn was 33 in 1917 and past the age of military service, but he was chosen as one of a cadre of eight artists who were commissioned to serve as graphic reporters of combat activities at the front. He was a fearless reporter and filled scrolls with powerful images of devastation, both physical and emotional. He wanted desperately to transform these reams of drawings into finished paintings and expected to be kept on the national payroll as he completed the proposed canvases. But he was discharged in 1919 immediately after the war and had to return to commercial work to support himself and his family. It was a bitter disappointment. His drawings still exist, many at the Smithsonian, and display an emotional power that still can overwhelm the viewer, even today.