ROBERT SPEAR DUNNING 
American (1829-1905) 
Still Life with Fruit 
oil on canvas, signed "R.S. Dunning" and dated "1885"

lower right and inscribed on the reverse. 
13 1/2 x 17 1/2 inches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Spear Dunning is today remembered as one of the foremost American still-life masters of the nineteenth century. He was a founder and the best-known artist of the Fall River School of Painting.  

 

Dunning was born in Brunswick, Maine in 1829 and at a young age his family resettled to Fall River, Massachusetts. Initially, Dunning worked in the city’s textile mills and later as a sailor in coastal shipping. When he decided to pursue a career as an artist he first studied art with James Roberts and later spent three years in New York City studying with Daniel Huntington at the National Academy of Design.

 

In 1852, Dunning returned to Fall River where he established a studio painting portrait, still-life and genre scenes. A thriving textile industry created a burgeoning upper and middle class and as a result Dunning was very successful from the start. By 1864 his focus was almost exclusively still-life painting.

 

In 1870, together with his business partner John E. Grouard, Dunning founded he Fall River Evening Drawing School (later the Fall River School) which became an important training center for future still-life artists. Artists including Bryant Chapin, Herbert Cash, Franklin H. Miller, Albert F. Monroe and Abbie L. Zuill were among his students.

 

Dunning’s best still-life paintings are characterized by perfectly ripe fruits, richly colored and painted with exquisite detail. The following two lots are highly representative examples by the artist, a master of the still-life genre.

 

There are few details about Dunning’s life as he rarely exhibited at venues far from his hometown. In 1880, his works were exhibited at the National Academy of Design and the Boston Art Club, although none were offered for sale. Today, he is highly sought after by collectors and his paintings are in numerous public institutions including the Currier Gallery of Art, the Terra Foundation and the Wichita Art Museum.

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