Dennis Miller Bunker

Portrait of Walter Griffin

I'll be turning 29 later this year, and a recent conversation with some other artists (about trying to "make it" as a young painter) reminded me of an artist that only lived till 29, yet had an amazing career.

Jessica - 1890

Dennis Miller Bunker (1861-1890) was born in New York City and studied at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League with William Merritt Chase. He attended the Ecole des Beaux Art in Paris, learning from Jean-Leon Gerome. After graduating in 1885, he returned to the United States and took a job in Boston teaching at the Cowles Art School. That same year Bunker had his first one-man exhibition at the Noyes & Blakeslee Gallery in Boston.

In 1887 Bunker met John Singer Sargent during Sargent's visit to Boston, and in 1888, spent the summer with Sargent at Calcot Mill in England painting in plein-air. That summer was a turning point for Bunker's painting style as he became greatly influenced by impressionism and turned to brighter colors and looser brushwork. He brought this style back with him to Boston and was praised for his new work.

John Singer Sargent - Dennis Miller Bunker Painting at Calcot

Bunker always felt like an outsider in Boston's society and in the Spring of 1889 resigned his teaching position at Cowles Art School, lived briefly that summer at Medfield, Massachusetts, and then moved back to New York City. Earlier that year he had met Eleanor Heady of Boston and they were married in October 1890. They moved into Sherwood Studios in New York City, but during a visit to Boston that Christmas Bunker fell ill and died at the age of 29.

Portrait Sketch of Eleanor Hardy Bunker

Within those 12 years from training to death, Bunker had accomplished more than most of us would ever achieve in a lifetime. It's quite a reality check! I guess I should get painting.

To view several letters written by Bunker, go to the smithsonian site here
To see a neat little overview of Bunker, check out the Qwiki

Portrait of Anne Page

Second Portrait of a Woman