William Herbert Dunton was born in 1878 in Maine. As early as the age of twelve, Dunton had illustrations published in sportsman magazines. At sixteen, he quit school to become an illustrator full time. While he was mostly a self taught artist, he did take some classes at Cowles Art School in Boston in 1897 and at the Art Students League in New York in 1903. By 1908 Dunton joined the Salmagundi Club, an artist organization in New York City. He was invited by one his teachers, Ernest Leonard Blumenschein to visit Taos, New Mexico in 1912. The trip would shape his career as an artist forever. By 1914, Dunton established a studio there and became one of the founding members of the Taos Society of Artists, along with Blumenchein, Sharp, Couse, Phillips, and Berninghaus. William Dunton continued to do illustration work for numerous magazines and books, including several Zane Grey covers, as did other artists from the Taos Society of Artists, but eventually grew tired of deadlines and focused on painting exclusively.
Before long his paintings were being shown in annual exhibitions at the National Academy of Design at New York, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts at Philadelphia, and the Art Institute of Chicago. William Herbert Dunton fell in love with the subjects he found out west in the open landscape; hunters, cowboys, horses, and Native American scenes. In 1922, he resigned as a member from the Taos Society of Artists, though he continued his involvement with the group. That same year, he wrote “Painters of Taos” for American Magazine of Art, explaining how light, color, and Indian life made such a strong impact for those painting the American West. During the Depression, Dunton created portraits and lithography to earn a living. He also painted under the Public Works of Art Project in New Mexico.
William H. Dunton’s work focused on capturing the vanishing way of life found in the West and his paintings reflect the forgotten hero and frontier. As a member of the Salmagundi Club, he had opportunities to meet and work with prominent clients including John D. Rockefeller, Teddy Roosevelt, and Douglas Fairbanks. Dunton was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1935 and died in 1936 in New Mexico.
William Herbert Dunton works can be found in many museums and private collections, such as the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Buffalo Bill Historical Society in Cody, Wyoming, the Museum of New Mexico, and the National Museum of Wildlife Art. The Stark Museum in Orange, Texas holds the largest collection of William H. Dunton’s work in the U.S
Schimmel, Julie. The Art and Life of W. Herbert Dunton, 1878-1936. Austin: Published for the Stark Museum of Art, Orange, Texas, by the U of Texas P, 1984.
This book presents a richly documented, detailed discussion of Dunton’s personality, life, and work according to subject matter. In the process, changes in choice of subject matter and the way in which he approached the various subjects, are analyzed. All this is discussed within the American artistic and cultural context of his time. A separate chapter is devoted to his stylistic development.