Skip to main content

Biographical Note | A Finding Aid to the Dennis Miller Bunker papers, 1882-1943, bulk 1882-1890 | Digitized Collection

Dennis Miller Bunker papers, 1882-1943, bulk 1882-1890

Biographical Note

Painter Dennis Miller Bunker (1861-1890) was born in New York City and from 1878 to 1881 studied at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League with William Merritt Chase. He traveled to Paris and attended the Ecole des Beaux Art where Jean-Leon Gerome was his teacher, graduating in 1885. He returned to the United States and took at job in Boston teaching at the Cowles Art School. That same year Bunker had his first one-man exhibition at the Noyes & Blakeslee Gallery in Boston. In the winter of 1885-1886 he met and befriended Isabella Stewart Gardner who became a great supporter and patron of his work. A few years later in 1887 Bunker met John Singer Sargent during Sargent's visit to Boston and, in 1888, spent the summer with Sargent at Calcot Mill in England painting plein-air landscapes. That summer was a turning point for Bunker's painting style as he became greatly influenced by impressionism and turned to brighter colors and looser brushwork. He brought this style back with him to Boston and was praised for his new work.
Bunker always felt like an outsider in Boston's society and in the Spring of 1889 resigned his teaching position at Cowles Art School, lived briefly that summer at Medfield, Massachusetts, and then moved back to New York City. Earlier that year he had met Eleanor Heady of Boston and they were married in October 1890. They moved into Sherwood Studios in New York City, but during a visit to Boston that Christmas Bunker fell ill and died at the age of 29.