Charles Bunnell mid-century modern abstract expressionist oil painting. Presented in a custom hardwood frame, outer dimensions measure 22 ¼ x 26 ½ x ¾ inches. Image size is 15 ½ x 19 ½ inches.
Charles Ragland Bunnell developed a love for art at a very young age. As a child in Kansas City, Missouri, he spent much of his time drawing. When he was unable to find paper he drew on walls and in the margins of textbooks for which he was often fined.
Around 1915, Bunnell moved with his family to Colorado Springs, Colorado. He served in World War I and later used his GI Training to study at the Broadmoor Art Academy (later renamed the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center) during 1922 and 1923.
In 1922, he married fellow student, Laura Palmer. He studied with Ernest Lawson in 1927-1928 and, in the winter of 1928-1929, he served as Lawson’s assistant.
In the late 1920’s, the Bunnell’s settled just west of Colorado Springs and 1928, they welcomed the first of their three children. Their one-acre homesite, which they referred to as “Old Home Place”, was situated between two sets of railroad tracks at the foot of Pike’s Peak. Charlie converted an old railroad boxcar into his studio, where he later gave lessons.
Beginning in 1931, Bunnell spent a year and a half studying under Boardman Robinson. The two men clashed constantly due to a generation gap and markedly different philosophies. Robinson, encouraged his students not to stray from realism and. Though Bunnell mastered Robinson’s preferred style of American Scene painting, he regularly irritated his professor with his abstract sketches.
Bunnell taught at the Kansas City Art Institute during the summers of 1929, 1930, 1940, and 1941. Between 1934 and 1941, he painted and taught under federal projects which included assisting Frank Mechau on murals for the Colorado Springs Post Office. However, he did not take to mural making and, after criticism from Boardman Robinson about his use of “heavy daubs which have no place in mural work” he abandoned mural-making altogether.
By the late 1930’s Bunnell’s work departed from the American Scene/Modernist style he was trained in towards abstraction. This is marked by his “Black and Blue” series, consisting of 83 abstracted ink and watercolors.
Affected by the second World War and the loss of his 10-year old son, Bunnell’s work of the early 1940’s took on a Transcendental and Surrealist tone. The works from this period are moody and readily reflect the political and personal turmoil experienced by the artist.
In the late 1940’s, Bunnell began experimenting with Abstract Expressionism. He alone is credited with introducing Colorado Springs to the new style as it was excluded from the Fine Art Center’s curriculum by Boardman Robinson. Bunnell excelled in Abstract Expressionism and continued to evolve in the style through the 1950’s continuing to his death in 1968. He was recently recognized as a premier American Abstract Expressionist by his inclusion in the book American Abstract Expressionism of the 1950’s: An Illustrated Survey.
Solo Exhibits: Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri, 1930; Santa Fe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1947; University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois, 1948; University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, 1949; Taos Gallery, Taos, New Mexico, 1951; Carl Barnett Galleries, Dallas, Texas, 1952; The Bodley Gallery, New York, 1955; Amarillo, Texas, 1955; Haigh Gallery, Denver, Colorado, 1955; Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1956; Dord Fitz Art Gallery, Amarillo, Texas, December 1956 – February 1957, 1959, 1969 (retrospective).
Group Exhibits: Carnegie Institute, 1927-1928; Colorado State Fair, 1928 (1st prize); Artists Midwestern, Kansas City, Missouri, 1929 (Gold Medal); Art Institute of Chicago, 1947 (the exhibit traveled to ten major museums in the United States); “Artists West of the Mississippi”, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado (7 times); Denver Art Museum Western Annual, Denver, Colorado (5 times); Mid-America Annual, Kansas City, Missouri, 1958; First Provincetown Festival, 1958; Southwestern Annual, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Winter 1957-1958; Central City, Colorado; Cañon City, Colorado.
A Show of Color: 100 Years of Painting in the Pike’s Peak Region, Robert L. Shalkop, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1971.; American Abstract Expressionism of the 1950’s: An Illustrated Survey, Marika Herskovic, Ed., New York School Press, New Jersey, 2003; Artists of the American West: A Biographical Dictionary, Vol. 1, Doris Ostrander Dawdy, Swallow Press, Chicago, 1980. 3 Vols.; Bunnell, with a foreward by Dord Fritz. Printed by Creative Press, 1970; John F. Carlson and Artists of the Broadmoor Academy, David Cook Fine Art, Denver, Colorado, 1999.; Pikes Peak Vision: The Broadmoor Art Academy, 1919-1945, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1989.; The Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West, Peggy and Harold Samuels, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1976.; Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975: 400 Years of Artists in America, Vol. 1. Peter Hastings Falk, Georgia Kuchen and Veronica Roessler, eds.,Sound View Press, Madison, Connecticut, 1999. 3 Vols.
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