Editor's note: The following article was rekeyed and reprinted on October 29, 2002 in Resource Library with permission of Lonnie Pierson Dunbier. The article is an excerpt from Dr. Roger Dunbier's unpublished writing of 601 pages titled WEST IS WEST: Your Money's Worth in Original Painting.  Dated 1982, the original typewriter manuscript is owned by his wife, Lonnie Pierson Dunbier, who edits and submits the chapters to TFAO. If you have questions or comments regarding the article, please contact Lonnie Pierson Dunbier in Scottsdale, AZ, at ldunbier@mac.com.


WAY BACK WHEN: Celebration of the Concocted

By Roger Dunbier (1934-1998)


To have been a child in America in the 1940s and 50s and not have been influenced by certain western artists is an improbability of the first magnitude.  It would have been a youth without seeing a dime novel illustrated by Nick Eggenhofer or a Saturday Evening Post by WHD Koerner or Harold Von Schmidt. It would have meant a history class without a book illustrated by Frederic Remington, the brothers Waud, or incredibly Thomas Nast.  This would have been a youth without Will James' Smoky, which, he, of course, both wrote and illustrated. It would have been a youth without a Zane Gray story and its illustrations by Frank Tenney Johnson or Charles Andres.  There would have been no National Geographics with their George Catlins or Thomas Morans.  It would have been no haircuts because seemingly every barbershop had a calendar by Charles Russell or E.I. Couse.  It would probably have meant no funny pages where Fred Harman's Red Ryder could have ambushed our youngster.  He could never have, on mom's instructions, fetched dad from the local where he would surely have caught a glimpse of one of the many Custer's Last Stands that decorated so many saloon walls.  As you can see, unless you were a child brought up by wolves, it is a virtual impossibility that you could have avoided the West as pictured by artists.

On the other hand, our hypothetical youth would most likely have grown to adulthood without coming across a book or even an article about one of these pioneer artists who did so much to form the picture we have of our Western frontier.  Scanning the publication dates of the art books referencing this era, it is easy to conclude there was very little written about Western art prior to 1960.  The reasons for this are many and subject to conjecture.  

First, the American public was too busy winning the West and then looking at the pictures of that event to bother itself much with any concern over the artists responsible for its images. Secondly, Americans were led to believe that their native-born artists were somehow inferior to Europeans, and most wealthy collectors were reinforcing that conception by importing tons of paintings that were good, bad and fake.  These European painters received most of the attention of the writers who concerned themselves with matters artistic.  And finally one must look to the advent of abstraction or modern art to understand why the stories of these western painters and illustrators never made the bottom shelf if written at all. The younger reader may never fully understand this omission because one had to have lived through a decade like the 1950s to appreciate the deprecation of recognizable images. It was a time when American art writers celebrated the elevation of the concocted.

The result is that those of us who can remember where we were on that Sunday in 1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed have been exposed to a kind of cultural ambiguity that just now may be coming to an end.  In our imaginations, we had a very highly developed perception of the West as portrayed by Catlin, Stanley, Gaul, Zogbaum and the others while at the same time we knew next to nothing about the real lives of these intrepid artists.  Where were the so-called art scholars

-- those who paraded as cutting through fantasy to hard-core truth. They seem to have been only in the ranks of the Concocters.

Edited and submitted by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier, wife of the artist, who holds the copyright.
Copyright © 2007 Lonnie Pierson Dunbier


About the Author:

From 1982, Dr. Roger Dunbier (1934-1998) combined his professional economics training, research skills, and love of art to develop an easily accessed, 'all-in-one-place' repository of factual information so that buyers and sellers of American art could make decisions based on hard-core data rather than just marketing hype.  With ever-more sophisticated computers, programmed by Charles Lefebvre, his long-time associate, Dunbier built an artist record database, which by the time he died 16 years later, had 17,000 names linked to their respective auction prices, literature and biographies.  Today the result of his dedication lives on as the foundation of AskART.com, an internet site since 2000.  

Dunbier's innovation of computer systems began in 1963, when he pioneered computer mapping on what were then relatively primitive computers.  In 1967, he utilized concepts of 'arbitrage' and 'comparables' in designing the first real estate Multiple Listing System.  Its direct descendent remains in use by realtors across the United States, and he later applied the same underlying principles in building his artist database.  (right: Roger Dunbier, photo courtesy Lonnie Pierson Dunbier, derived from a larger image at http://tfaoi.org/am/16am/16am17.jpg)

Dunbier was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska.  His interest in American art was natural because his father, Augustus Dunbier, (1888-1977) was a prominent landscape, still life and portrait painter and art teacher, whose studio and classroom were in the family home.   Although Roger showed few 'right brained' skills, he did have other talents.  He graduated first in his class and Summa Cum Laude from the University of Omaha in 1955 with majors in economics and history.   He then received a Marshall Scholarship, which led to enrollment at Oxford University in England from 1955 to 1959.  During that time, he was on the Oxford University basketball and track teams, and was a member of the British National Basketball Team.  In 1961, he received a Doctorate of Philosophy, Economic Geography from Oxford.  His dissertation, The Sonoran Desert, Its Geography, Economy, and People, was published by the University of Arizona Press in 1960, and subsequently used as a text book for college geography courses.

After formal education, Dunbier held full-time professorial positions for several years at the University of Omaha and the University of California-Irvine.  He lived most of the remainder of his life in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona, and had economic-geography related jobs including CEO of his management consulting firm that prepared demographic and locational studies; and President of Metro Press, Inc., publisher of over 100 computer generated area directories for Metro Phoenix.  In 1991, he married Lonnie Pierson of Lincoln, Nebraska.

-- By Lonnie Pierson Dunbier, 2008


About this article's editor

Lonnie Pierson Dunbier of Scottsdale, Arizona and originally from Nebraska, married Dr. Roger Dunbier in 1991. From then, she worked full time on his artist database. After his death, she co-founded AskART.com, for which she was Research Director from 2000 to 2007. Ms. Dunbier is also the editor of all other excerpts from Dr. Roger Dunbier's unpublished writing of 601 pages titled WEST IS WEST: Your Money's Worth in Original Painting


Resource Library editor's note:

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© Copyright 2007 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.