Frank Dudley Dune Painting with American Impressionist Frame

This Dune painting by Frank Virgil Dudley (1868-1957) suffered from heavy smoke and dirt particulates across the surface. There was some paint loss along the top as well as a crease around the perimeter due to the stress caused by the stretcher bar, and there were some craquelures that were discovered.

The cleaning process had a tremendous effect, but it made the craquelures more apparent. Consolidation returned these areas to plane, and in-fill and in-painting concealed them.

A new custom and handmade American Impressionist frame was made with carved corners and gilded with 22 karat gold.

In an auction at the beginning of the year, Frank Dudley set his career high mark, and we glad to see not only the appreciation for the style of American Impressionism, but also the appreciation for the “Painter of the Dunes,” as Dudley became to be known as.

Frank Dudley (1868-1957), born in Delavan, Wisconsin, had worked as a youth with his father as a house painter.  Frank was one of three brothers born to deaf-mute parents, James A. and Flora Virgil Dudley. Communicating in sign language, James Dudley taught his sons the craft of house painting. James also had some skill as a draftsman and easel painter, and Frank likely received his earliest art instruction from his father. He also studied easel painting with Albert McCoy, who was a visiting artist from Chicago, and then moved to Chicago where he took a job as a commercial engraver.  He attended night classes at the Art Institute where he studied under John H. Vanderpoel and Charles Boutwood. Around this time he also had an introduction to Impressionism by way of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Frank married Mahala Boxwell several years before their son Paul was born in 1898, and he supported his family with his artwork. Following the sudden death of his wife in 1904, Frank Dudley turned to plein air landscape painting.

In 1911, he visited the Indiana Dunes for the first time, and began to record the scenery there. In 1913 he married his second wife, Maida Lewis, with whom he spent the rest of his life. With Maida often seated nearby, he painted the Dunes in all seasons.

In 1921, having gained much positive attention for his regional focus, Dudley closed the small art supply business he was running in Chicago, and built a cabin for full-time painting on Lake Michigan near Chesterton, Indiana.  He was able to build the cabin with money he received from winning the Logan Prize of the Art Institute for his painting, Duneland, and from then selling the painting to the Art Institute.

Dudley’s studio and cottage became a gathering place for many painters attracted to the Indiana Dunes and to the variances of the shoreline.  The artists, including Dudley, became champions of preservation for the area, and the beauty of their canvases stirred the public pressure that led in 1923 to the establishment of two-thousand acres as the Indiana Dunes State Park.

At that time, Dudley made an arrangement to be able to keep his cabin as rental property within the park in exchange for one painting a year donated to the Indiana State Department of Conservation.  Living in the Park for over thirty years, he died in 1957.

Exhibition venues include the Hoosier Salon, Art Institute of Chicago, Cedar Rapids Art Association, Corcoran Gallery and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

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