6 x 8"
oil on panel
I've been to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art twice. Both times, I stop at this portrait of Anne Page, by Dennis Miller Bunker, and soak it in longer than most paintings at the museum. It's restrained, low in key, fairly neutral in color - no frills, just elegant.
Dennis Bunker is an artist you don't hear too much about. He was born in New York City in 1861, an innovator of American Impressionism, hung out with some of the most famous painters of that time - John Singer Sargent, Wilmer Dewing, William Merritt Chase to name a few. His circle of friends was crucial as an artist but none as beneficial as Isabella Stewart Gardner, a valuable patron of artists. There is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, established in 1903, which owns some of the most outstanding works of art in this country.
A friend of Bunker's set up a date with Anne Page and the artist, thinking they'd make a good couple. Bunker was smitten from the first encounter, wrote to his friend "She seems to have the same charm that some of your other friends have. I mean your female friends. I am quite at a loss when I try to define it and I begin to think it a bit out of my line. I don’t know that I am entirely comfortable in the presence of such natures, they seem too fine for me.”
Bunker wrote Anne poems and long letters and eventually had her sit for the portrait you see above. Although the two never formed a romantic relationship, they remained friends throughout his short life. Bunker fell ill, just two months after he married, and died of meningitis at the age of 29.