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
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.
On this soul-sucking day, I thought of one of my favorite paintings Automaton by Jamie Wyeth. The definition of automaton is an android or robot, but also refers to a person who seems to act in a mechanical, unemotional way.
The Wyeth family celebrated Halloween with great enthusiasm every fall. Beginning with the patriarch, N.C. Wyeth who had a large stash of costumes with swords and pirate hats and spooky masks for his illustrations - and his children relished the chance to dress up and pretend they were the buccaneers or ghouls taking over the family farm. I wrote up a post about the Wyeth's love of Halloween here, back in October 2015.
"You should keep on painting no matter how difficult it is, because this is all part of experience, and the more experience you have, the better it is... unless it kills you, and then you know you have gone too far." ~ Alice Neel
"If I had the energy, I would have done it all over the country" - Edward Hopper
"It's what you carry to an object that counts." - Andrew Wyeth
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"When I'm old and gray, I want to have a house by the sea. And paint. With a lot of wonderful chums, good music, and booze around. And a damn good kitchen to cook in."