Editor's note: The following article was rekeyed and reprinted on February 11, 2004 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 Roger Dunbier's unpublished writing of 601 pages titled WEST IS WEST: Your Money's Worth in Original Painting.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.


My Youth with Canvas Boards, (From Ralph Mayer to Maturity)

By Roger Dunbier, PhD (1934-1998)

Edited by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier


Some of the worst moments of my youth came early on that annual dreaded morning when I saw my father carrying out on the lawn the long frames, which he utilized in the manufacture of his own canvas. This meant that off and on for several days I would be dragooned into the tedium of stretching and un-stretching giant swaths of linen before and after the application of sizing and ground. This activity reluctantly engaged in was accompanied by his wide-ranging lectures in a mixed bag of languages on various subjects, the principal one being the disinclination of the younger generation to pay attention to detail and the failure of ten-year olds to appreciate the good hard work and educational opportunities yet afforded them in a society going soft.

This leads me to a paragraph in The Artist's Handbook by Ralph Mayer, where a check mark in the margin of my father's copy that he purchased in 1940 points to the following paragraph concerning canvas boards.

"Canvas boards are pasteboard to which prepared cloth has been glued or pasted. Although they are made to be painted upon, they are thoroughly unreliable for permanent professional painting on account of the doubtful quality of the materials generally used. Recently there has appeared on the market all-purpose boards, coated with a casein or glue mixture that contains tinting or tooth-imparting pigment. The support is usually common thin pasteboard, which disqualifies the material for permanent work...etc"

These words, which first reached paper in the late 1930s, have been reiterated without change in every new printing of this popular book right down to the last 1981 reprint. Over eighty years have now passed in the era of modern canvas-board, which is just less than forty years prior to and a greater number than forty years after those words were written.

BUT THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT THIS SUPPORT IS OVERALL ANY MORE SUBJECT TO DETERIORATION THAN CANVAS MOUNTED ON STRETCHERS. There are potential problems with both, but to my mind there is with each passing year less evidence for the wholesale condemnation -- reprinted so faithfully by the deceased Mr. Mayer's publishers.

In addition to being on my knees over canvas board and canvas from the time I was a child, I have spent some time thinking on this subject because of my awareness that a number of collectors and dealers have over this long period of publication read these words and accepted them as gospel. In so doing, they have downgraded either consciously or unconsciously works done on the particular kind of support.

It would seem that this passing on of misinformation offers opportunities to speak up to those of us who don't believe everything we read.

Edited and submitted by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier, wife of the artist, who holds the copyright.
Copyright © 2004 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:

readers may also enjoy:

and for a complete listing of Roger Dunbier's articles please click here or here.

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 2004 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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