Dennis Miller Bunker


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Painter. Noted as one of the first Americans to work in an impressionist style, he painted innovative landscapes, as well as highly accomplished figural works in a more conservative mode. Despite a premature death, he affected American taste, particularly in Boston. Born in New York, he grew up in Garden City, on Long Island. He studied at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League, where William Merritt Chase numbered among his instructors. In 1882 left for Paris to work at the Académie Julian and then at the École des Beaux-Arts with Jean-Léon Gérôme. During summers he painted landscapes in the French countryside. After returning to New York, in the fall of 1885 he accepted a teaching position in Boston. He continued to paint carefully constructed, elegant, and sensitive figural works and portraits, which demonstrated mastery of Gérôme's example, but he also produced moody, Barbizon-inspired landscapes. Soon well connected in the Boston art community, he benefited particularly from the friendship and patronage of Isabella Stewart Gardner. After meeting John Singer Sargent in Boston late in 1887, Bunker traveled to England to paint with him outdoors during the summer of 1888 at Calcot Mill near Reading. Subsequently, especially while painting during the summers of 1889 and 1890 in Medfield, not far from Boston, he applied a sophisticated impressionist technique to brightly lit, usually intimately scaled landscapes. However, sustaining his more traditional approach, figural works of these final years suggest his regard for the work of Abbott Thayer and Thomas Wilmer Dewing. In the fall of 1889 Bunker moved to New York. During a Christmas visit to Boston the following year, he died suddenly, probably from meningitis, less than two months after his twenty-ninth birthday.

Subjects: Art.

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