Editor's note: The following article was rekeyed and reprinted on April 15, 2008 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 Roger Dunbier's unpublished writing of 601 pages titled WEST IS WEST: Your Money's Worth in Original Painting.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.


Defining the West

Those Who Influenced and Those Who Were Influenced

By Roger Dunbier, PhD (1934-1998)


I define the American West as that part of North America which exploded in American consciousness with the California gold bonanza resulting in a giant leap West by settlers into lands that were only indistinctly and inaccurately mapped. Stated another way, the West of the American Artist was that of the short grass beyond the deep prairie sod being overturned by Iowa and east Texas farmers in the Eighteen Forties. It was the West of isolated settlements with numerous 'frontiers' circling each mining and irrigation district and not the linear and inexorably advancing thing of the forest and tall grass. It was also failure, fall back and abandonment on a scale, and in a land of scale beyond the comprehension of most. It was gargantuan desolation, the PLACE of our definition.

'My' WESTERN ARTISTS are those who, from the earliest to the present, actually went West and who made an attempt to convey it to a wider audience. The Early Period coming down to 1920 is dominated by painters and illustrators who influenced. The Recent period, as much as it depicts a bygone era, is in large measure the domain of the influenced. And because of the overwhelming but possibly transitory interest in 'frontier genre', this division can not be overemphasized.

The Then equaling Early and the Now meaning Recent are too important not to be set off definitively from one another. However, this is in no way obviated by a somewhat arbitrarily division drawn with a broad stroke through the year 1920. It is quite true that individual analysis of painters vis-a-vis time reveals startling anachronisms. Many painters were far ahead of their own time. Others treat subjects as trapped in amber (a grandson of Olaf Seltzer carries this right down to the block letter signature). It is all too true that we 'stand on the shoulders. . .'. It must be recognized.

On the other hand, one should not underestimate the importance of the 'great eyes' of this and every other age, which transcend the art historian's penchant for carefully delineated eras. Such men and women will always bring something new and inspiring to the canvas that transcends real time. In an earlier day it was Thomas Moran and Henry Farny, more recently Sergei Bongart and Rod Goebel. They deal with the reality of the great out of doors, which changes hourly while at the same time remains the same. They seem to be few and far between, these painters that 'fine tune' their eyes, where each canvas is a very different thing yet the totality of their work coalesces into a distinctive and recognizable whole. It could be maintained that if all painters possessed this acuity or this unique perception, a division such as the expostulated 1920 watershed would be redundant and art timeless in a literal sense.

-- Edited and Submitted by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier who holds the copyright


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 21,357 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

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