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South Dakota Art Museum shows select works of Harvey Dunn

Harvey Dunn exhibit

The South Dakota Art Museum and the greater South Dakota State University campus community pay tribute to its most famous art student, Harvey Dunn, with an exhibition in the museum gallery that incorporates his well-known and lesser-known oil paintings. The paintings will be on display through December.

The museum will also begin taking orders for “Harvey Dunn: Illustrator and Painter of the Pioneer West” by Walt Reed, a well known art historian, author of books on illustration and founder of Illustration House in Westport, Conn. The book, a comprehensive volume of Dunn's work, teaching methods and students, is expected off the press in November.

“We've had a long relationship with Walt Reed, a noted Dunn art historian, and are facilitating the publishing of his book,” said Lynn Verschoor, director of the South Dakota Art Museum.

Dunn was born on March 8, 1884 in the little town of Manchester in Kingsbury County.

At an early age, his artistic talent was recognized and encouraged by his mother, Bersha. One of his best-known paintings, “The Prairie is My Garden,” honors his mother.

As a South Dakota State student, Dunn's teacher Ada Caldwell, encouraged him to study at the Chicago Art Institute where he was introduced to Howard Pyle, the top illustrator of the day. Pyle invited Dunn to study with him in Delaware. Under Pyle's tutelage, Dunn became one of America's most successful illustrators.

But he never forgot his South Dakota roots, and before he died in 1952, he gave a significant number of his paintings to South Dakota State University.

Some of his pieces included in the current exhibition are “The Prairie is My Garden” and “The Prairie Trail,” along with commissioned portraits, paintings created to illustrate magazine stories and others painted for artist's pure enjoyment and love of the prairie landscape.

Reed's forthcoming volume of Dunn's work is a 304-page, hard-bound book with printed dust jacket that includes 73 black and white images and 294 color plates of his paintings, locations of Dunn's art in public collections and a listing of his published illustrations. The coffee-table book has a section devoted to the artist's working and teaching methods, a reprinting of “An Evening in the Classroom” and a comprehensive list of his students with work samples.

Further information about the exhibit or the book is available by calling the South Dakota Art Museum at 605-688-5423 or email The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.


Photo: Some of the most recognized paintings of noted artist Harvey Dunn, including his “The Prairie is My Garden,” are on display at the South Dakota Art Museum through December.