Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Illustrators of frontier fiction:
W. Herbert Dunton

Taos Society of Artists, 1915 (Dunton, 3rd from left)
William Herbert "Buck" Dunton (1878-1936) was born in Maine. An outdoorsman from an early age, he travelled frequently to the West. After working in New York as a magazine and book illustrator, he eventually settled in Taos, New Mexico, which had become a thriving artists colony. There he gave up a career as an illustrator and took to painting and hunting. He was an original member of the Taos Society of Artists.

Like the writers Zane Grey (1872-1939) and Will James (1892-1942), Dunton had a nostalgic regard for the Old West, preserving and celebrating in his work and pastimes the mythology of frontier scouts, cowboys, and other singular figures who lived independently off the land as it was before westward settlement. Here are a number of his book illustrations from the years 1904 - 1919.

William R. Lighton, Uncle Mac's Nebrasky (1904)

B. M. Bower, Her Prairie Knight (1907)

Sara Dean, Travers: a story of the San Francisco Earthquake (1908)

Alfred Henry Lewis, Wolfville Folks (1908)

Randall Parrish, Keith of the Border: a Tale of the Plains (1910)

Katharine Hopkins Chapman, The Fusing Force: an Idaho Idyll (1911)

Alfred Henry Lewis, Faro Nell and her Friends (1913)

Jackson Gregory, Judith of Blue Lake Ranch (1919)

Shamelsss plug: For an in-depth survey of early writers of frontier fiction, read How the West Was Written (to obtain a copy, click here).

Further reading/viewing:
Image credits:
Google books
Wikimedia Commons

Coming up: Richard Prosch, Devil’s Run


  1. Dunton is one of my favorite Western illustrators. As a matter of fact, I have a couple of Dunton prints on my bedroom walls, including that second one from Keith of the Border (the colors are a bit lighter in the print I bought).

    1. A handsome image and subtly composed, with the point of view below the figure on the horse, and the horse poised on a slope. You can feel the man's weight in the saddle as he shifts to one side, his hand on the horse's flank, to counter-balance.

  2. I always tend to like the ones with horses best.

  3. Ron, I hope you continue this series on early western artists. I collect original cover paintings used on pulps, paperbacks, digests, etc, so I have quite a few western cover paintings. But I never could afford Dunton and Maynard Dixon of course.

    Most of my art I have hanging on the walls but the artists are mainly from the pulp era like Walter Baumhofer, Norman Saunders, and Raphael Desoto. I do have 7 Nick Eggenhofer interior drawings that were use as interior illustrations in Street & Smith's WESTERN STORY and WILD WEST WEEKLY.

    N.C. Wyeth is another favorite of mine but again, completely out of my price range. The Chadds Ford River Museum is near me and I've seen several exhibitions of his work.

    Western art seem to not be as popular as hero pulp or SF art. I once had someone visit me and he complained I had too many western paintings. My feeling is that I can never have too many!

  4. I always like illustrations where candlelight, lamp light, or campfire light is depicted.