Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Bernard Dunstan RA PPRWA NEAC (1920 - 2017)

Bernard Dunstan RA, PPRWA, NEAC, the longest serving Royal Academician, has died at the age of 97.

Bernard Dunstan - filmed painting in 2016 - see video below

Timeline of A Life in Art

  • 1920 - Born in Teddington on 19 January 
  • Went to School at St Paul's
  • 1939 - Studied at Byam Shaw School of Art 
  • 1939-1941 - Studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, London
  • 1949 - married  the painter Diana Armfield RA. They lived and worked in Kew, Surrey in adjoining studios.
  • 2017 - He died on Sunday 20 August.
  • He was an art teacher. There are very many artists who have been taught by Bernard Dunstan. He taught at:
    • 1946-1949 - West of England School of Art in Bristol
    • 1950-1964 - Camberwell School of Art from 1950 to 1964
    • 1953-1974 - Byam Shaw School of Art 
    • 1959-1964 - Ravensbourne Art College 
    • 1964-1969 - City and Guilds of London Art School
  • He wrote several books on painting, including 
    • Learning to Paint (1970) and 
    • Painting Methods of the Impressionists (1976). 
Bernard Dunstan cites several painters from the past as influential on his work, particularly French nineteenth century artists such as Renoir, Ingres, Bonnard and Vuillard. English painters that have interested him include Constable, Turner, Walter Sickert and Wilson Steer.RWA website profile
  • He painted constantly and regularly exhibited his art (see below for links) with:
    • 1952 to 1970 - Roland, Browse and Delbanco, London 
    • 1972 - to present - Agnew’s, London
    • 1981 - present - Stremmel Gallery, Reno, Nevada, USA 
    • annually in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and the New English Art Club
Some of his paintings
  • A huge number of his paintings are in very many private collections.  Whenever I saw his work at exhibitions they had frequently already acquired a red spot! He has work in many public collections including
    • Royal Collection, Windsor
    • Aberdeen Art Gallery
    • Arts Council
    • Bristol Art Gallery
    • Museum of London
    • National Gallery of New Zealand
    • National Portrait Gallery
    • Plymouth Art Gallery
    • Rochdale Art Gallery
In Jeffrey Archer's novel 'Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less' (1976), the villain, Harvey Metcalfe, is an admirer of Dunstan's work: ‘Harvey made a special point of looking at the Bernard Dunstans in the [Royal Academy Summer] Exhibition. Of course, they were all sold. Dunstan was one of the artists whose pictures always sold in the first minutes of the opening day.’ Art UK website
  • In terms of honours and recognition:
    • 1947 - elected member of the New English Art Club
    • 24 April 1959 - elected Associate of the Royal Academy
    • 9 July 1968 - elected Royal Academician - in the Painter category
    • 1979 to 1984 - President of the Royal West of England Academy. 
I own a book called The Paintings of Bernard Dunstan which includes works from the 1940s to 1991. It's one of those I get out when in need of a bit of inspiration!  I'm also a huge fan of his annotated notes version of John Ruskin's 'The Elements of Drawing'.

The video of Bernard Dunstan and Diana Armfield below was made in 2016 to celebrate 65 years of painting alongside one another.  Diana is the talker, Bernard is the very quiet man in the other studio.

Painting their life: Diana Armfield and Bernard Dunstan from Royal Academy of Arts on Vimeo.
Married Royal Academicians Diana Armfield and Bernard Dunstan have been painting alongside each other for 65 years. What’s the secret to the success of their long partnership? Diana Armfield tells us about a life of shared creativity, compromise, and mutual support.

This is an interview Out to lunch: Bernard Dunstan and Diana Armfield in 2006 - archived via the Wayback Machine as the RA has unfortunately removed it from its website.
Each morning since they married over 50 years ago has begun with Bernard doing a quick nude drawing of Diana: ‘It keeps my mind active,’ he smiles.
His method of working is described on the NEAC website as follows.
Bernard Dunstan painted from direct observation, studio work, from oil sketches and drawings of one kind or another, all his painting life, employing imagination and improvisation as the work seemed to demand. For his musical subjects, he was able, for many years, to attend orchestra rehearsals to make many sketchbook notes; working from these to form the basis of paintings. Some works carried straight through; others went through many stages and even many years. He used a full palette. He worked mostly on pieces of primed and toned board of his own making, the primer being rabbit skin size with chalk. Bernard spent time sitting on his sofa contemplating his work. "This is good for the painting!" he said
The Evening Standard review of the RA Summer Exhibition in 2013 remarked
Academicians are represented by work so far from their past best that all appear to be in rapid decline; among them, only Diana Armfield and Bernard Dunstan can still claim to be on form with their subtle observations of landscape and still life, small, sympathetic, exquisite.
You can see Bernard Dunstan (age 67) talking about being one of the RA Selectors in this 1987 video of the RA Summer Exhibition submission process

You can see his paintings - many of which are paintings of the nude (many of which are of his wife) - on the following sites
I'll finish with Felicity House's tribute to him which alerted me to his death
I was very sorry to learn that one of our best loved figurative artists Bernard Dunstan has died - he was a wonderful painter and terrifically generous in sharing his skill of making paintings through numerous art magazine articles and his wonderful books - which are so worth reading. Bernard painted his wife Diana Armfield every day - so there are many but I'm happy to have one of these - a pastel drawing on watercolour wash . It was my good fortune to win this back in 1999 when I purchased an RWA fund raising draw ticket - this photographic image is not so good as its under glass but I enjoy looking at it every day. A generous artist in every respect - he leaves much to us all.

1 comment:

  1. Katherine, thank you for a very touching post. Bernard was a consummate artist, someone who ranks so very highly in our history of modern British masters. He was admired and loved by many.
    Thank you again.


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