Rich and vibrantly colored prairie paintings by artist Harvey Dunn illustrate his “Depictions of Weather,” a collection of paintings on exhibit at the South Dakota Art Museum.
Seventeen large, oil-on-canvas paintings in the museum’s collection of more than 100 Dunn paintings, illustrate seasonal weather. His weather paintings will be on display until Dec. 2.
Dunn’s portrayal of weather demonstrates the ever changing, South Dakota conditions detailed in his prairie homestead images.
The artist used a distinct color palate and differing cloud formations to depict settler emotions as they encountered weather extremes. Pioneers were forced to pay close attention to weather patterns for survival of crops, animals and themselves.
Dunn recognized the relentless concern South Dakotan’s had for weather and portrayed their associated feelings in his paintings.
Dennis Todey, state climatologist and associate professor of agriculture and biosystems engineering at South Dakota State University studied each painting and made comments on display cards next to each painting.
The climatologist identified cloud and sky color in association with the season, time of day and region the image represents.
Todey said that each painting shows a predictable and identifiable scene distinguishing both eastern and western South Dakota.
For example, “30 Below,” one of Dunn’s paintings, captures the struggles pioneers faced during prairie winters. Blue, white and yellow hues transport viewers to a sub-zero winter day. Smoke rolling from a chimney, struggling horses and snow blowing off a roof illustrate harsh winter weather conditions on the prairie.
“You want to paint something that a man looking at will say: ‘Yes I’ve been to places like that, I know what kind of day it is.’ He makes it something of his own and because he does, he wishes to possess it,” Dunn said in “An Evening in the Classroom,” notes from a painting class he taught in 1934.
Dunn was born on March 8, 1884, in a shanty near Manchester, S.D. He was the second of three children born to Thomas and Bersha Dow Dunn and attended a one-room school.
His talent for art was recognized early on, and he was accepted into the South Dakota Agricultural College, which became South Dakota State University. His professor Ada Caldwell encouraged him to enroll in the Chicago Art Institute where his talent was shaped further. He became a well-known artist and illustrator who used images of his native prairie for many of the paintings in the SDAM collection.
The South Dakota Art Museum is located at the junction of Medary Ave. and Harvey Dunn St., 936 Medary Ave. for GPS users, on the west side of the SDSU campus.
Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
More information is available by calling 605-688-5423, toll free at 866-805-7590 or visit www.southdakotaartmuseum.com.
About South Dakota State University
Founded in 1881, South Dakota State University is the state’s Morrill Act land-grant institution as well as its largest, most comprehensive school of higher education. SDSU confers degrees from eight different colleges representing more than 175 majors, minors and specializations. The institution also offers 29 master’s degree programs, 12 Ph.D. and two professional programs.
The work of the university is carried out on a residential campus in Brookings, at sites in Sioux Falls, Pierre and Rapid City, and through Extension offices and Agricultural Experiment Station research sites across the state.