The first family home of artist Harvey Dunn was the prairie. Yet, through his work as an artist, an illustrator, and a combat artist, Dunn frequently observed, imagined, and rendered others’ domestic moments, giving him an appreciation of home and family that crossed cultural and geographical boundaries. He once said, “take the word ‘home.’ In people all over the world, that word will arouse a different mental picture, but all will react emotionally the same.”
In Harvey Dunn: Images of Family and Home these varied artworks by Dunn consider representations of family and home. Many of the works capture the heritage of the artist’s birthplace in Eastern South Dakota during the late 19th century. Mothers, fathers, siblings, aunts and uncles, husbands and wives, friends and loved ones are shown in companionable leisure or alternatively working hard together. Despite the different activities–pioneers breaking sod, children ambling home from school, an exhausted mother cradling her infant at night–within all these images is a spirit of fortitude and tenderness.
Illustrations and paintings of World War I provide a glimpse into Dunn’s representation of others’ families and homes. Many of these feature individuals arriving in new communities, experiencing new family situations, or even suffering losses of communities and loved ones due to the devastation of war. In these works, Dunn explores complex emotions of leaving and losing homes, of experiencing unfamiliar environments and new people, of feeling loss and displacement.
As this exhibit explores the complicated and interconnected experiences associated with family and home, please consider your own thoughts and feelings about the people and places precious to you:
- What makes a home? Is home the place you live or something more?
- How do you define your family? Who is your family?
- What might it feel like to form a new home or join a new family?
- How might we help those feeling loss and displacement feel more at home?
oil on canvas, 1941
Dakota Wesleyan University Collection
"The Prairie is My Garden"
oil on canvas, 1950
South Dakota Art Museum Collection, 1970.01.38
Gift of Edgar M. Soreng.
oil on canvas, 1950
South Dakota Art Museum 1970.01.03
Gift of Anonymous Donor.
oil on canvas, n.d.
South Dakota Art Museum 2008.05.1
Gift of Deborah Dunn Wessells, granddaughter of Harvey Dunn. Conservation funding provided by Stan Adelstein.
oil on canvas, c. 1920
South Dakota Art Museum 1970.01.08
Gift of the Artist. Conservation funding provided by Maree Larson.
untitled (Christmas - Dunn)
South Dakota Art Museum 2016.01.05
Gift of Alice Dunn Martin.
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