Click on photos to enlarge.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Frank Dumond

Garden of Eden, 1904, Frank Dumond
Frank Dumond Self-portrait.
A good caricature artist could
have some fun with this face.
In writing about artist, I have a warm place in my heart for those who were also art instructors. This comes, of course, from my having been one for some 26 years (I still paint too). And in a sense, I guess I'm still an art instructor through daily preaching the "gospel of art" here in the blogosphere. Of course, far more often than not, the various teaching artists are, in fact, primarily teachers with their own paintings just a nice little sideline (speaking here for myself as much as others). Frank Dumond was one such artist. Born in Rochester, New York, in 1865, Dumond was at New York's Art Students League by the time he was nineteen, then it was off to Paris and the venerable Academie Julian, where he picked up Art Nouveau and Barbizon influences. He stayed and painted in France for another five years, returning to the U.S. around 1900 to a career illustrating for magazines such as Harper's Weekly. and later Century, McClure's, and Scribner's. Around 1915, Harper Brothers persuaded him to do the illustrations for Mark Twain's Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc.

Dumond's Art Students League class, ca. 1894. In case you're wondering, the women had their own separate class. Unfortunately none of the artists pictured above are identified. Notice the upended chairs used as drawing easels.
Having taught summer classes for the Art Students League while in France, in returning to New York, it was but a short step in also returning to his alma mater as a full-time instructor, a position he was to hold for the next fifty years (the rest of his life--he died in 1951). Imagine having been Norman Rockwell's art instructor; or having had Georgia O'Keeffe in class; of having taught John Marin, and Frank J. Reilly, or that old curmudgeon, Charles Webster Hawthorne (perhaps before he was quite so curmudgeonly). There were hundreds more equally outstanding artists (or almost so, at least). For art the instructors, it's a discomforting fact of life that they might very well be more famous for whom they've taught than what they've painted. That was probably the case with Dumond.

Christ and the Fishermen, 1891, Frank Dumond
Dumond's Old Lyme summer classes often
ran from dawn until dusk, which must have
presented a challenge in establishing and
maintaining landscape color relationships.

With two or three notable exceptions, such as his narrative triptych, Garden of Eden (top), of 1904, or his Christ and the Fishermen (above), from 1891, the vast majority of Dumond's Impressionistic landscapes are attractive, yet unremarkable. Dumond preached a chromatic palette, colors arranged by intensity starting with yellow through the warm colors followed by the cooler tones ending in violet. His brand of Impressionism reflects this organized conquest of color. Beyond that, however, most of his Impressionist landscapes seem to me rather empty, with ambiguous, or even quite lacking in any center of interest.

Autumn in Lyme, 1925, Frank Dumond--one of his better landscapes.

The Lyme Art Colony today
features summer tours.

True to his Barbizon upbringing, Dumond painted and taught Impressionism (at least insofar as landscapes were concerned) out-of-doors. His summer classes in the community of Old Lyme, Connecticut, went on for some thirty years (1900 to 1930) with artists such as Childe Hassam, William Chadwick, and Matilda Browne fleeing the big cities in search of cool, quiet, comfort in the country. Centered upon the Florence Griswold Boarding House and five other homes (one owned by Dumond) the community was known as the "Old Lyme Art Colony," William Chadwick's school still exists there and features both classes and tours.


  1. Thank you Jim - I enjoyed this post! I'm in the process of transcribing my grandfather's letters from when he studied at the Academe Julian and Aman Jean school in Paris (1894+). This sentence sent me on a search which lead to your page: "This Mr. Stout I like very much. He is from Brooklyn, came over last summer with the Dumond class." I had no idea what the Dumond class was... thank you for the insight!

    1. This is the kind of thing I live for, helping the descendants of artists get in touch with the past greatness of family creative individuals. Thanks for your note and I hope you'll follow my postings regularly.