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Dunning, Robert Spear

Robert S. Dunning (1829-1905) was born in Brunswick, Maine, but is associated with the mill city of Fall River, Massachusetts, where he spent nearly all his career. As a boy he worked in the textile mills that made Fall River a prosperous and famous manufacturing city. He studied art with James Roberts in Maine and with Daniel Huntington in New York, where he became a member of the National Academy. In 1859 he and artist John Grouard founded the firm of Grouard and Dunning. That same year, the two co-founded the Fall River Evening Drawing School, where Dunning taught along with artists who had studied with him, including Bryant Chapin, Herbert Fish, and Franklin Miller. While little is known of Grouard and few of his paintings survive, Dunning became almost synonymous with the style of painting known as the “Fall River School.” This style, which flourished from 1865 to about 1925, was conservative even in its day and was closely allied to mid-century tastes, in contrast to the trompe-l’oeil and harder-edged still lifes of the late 19th-century by painters like Peto and Harnett. Dunning’s works embody the opulent spirit of the mid-Victorian era. His lush depiction of fruit and flowers are often combined with a variety of textural elements such as patterned napkins, table coverings, or highly-reflective carved table tops. He sometimes incorporated unusual or exotic elements such as a honeycomb or a box of figs. His work is meticulously detailed, elegant, and bright, though his earliest works are sometimes simpler and starker. Best known for his still life paintings, Dunning also painted landscapes, especially in New Hampshire. Generally smaller sized, these gem-like works are earning increasing interest among collectors.

Title: Pastoral Scene with Cows
Medium: oil/canvas; Signed verso 7" x 11"