Museum Minute: A Lone Bear

Nov 29, 2018

The Timberline, W. Herbert Dunton.
Credit Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming, USA; Gift in Memory of Hal Tate from Naoma Tate and the Family of Hal Tate, 9.05

Back in 2015, when Karen McWhorter just started her position as curator of the Whitney Western Art Museum, she was interviewed for a magazine.

One of the questions: what was her favorite painting in the Whitney’s collection? 

"I didn't know what we had to be honest," McWhorter recalled. "But this painting had been hanging in the gallery and it had struck me the moment I walked into the Whitney."

This painting was W. Herbert Dunton's, The Timberline. And McWhorter had a couple of reasons why the painting of single bear shaded underneath a tree against mountain landscape was her favorite.

"It's one of the few paintings [in the Whitney collection] with a connection to the southwest, specifically New Mexico and that is a geographic area that I have focused my art historical research."

W. Herbert Dunton was 24 years old when he moved to Taos, New Mexico in 1912. Along with a couple of other artists, he created the Taos Society of Artists. Throughout his career, he was best known for his depictions of cowboys.

The Timberline was painted towards the end of Dunton's life. He was an avid hunter for most of his life but by the end he shifted towards painting wildlife instead of harvesting for sport.

"This is one of several paintings that Dunton created featuring a single bear or a group of bears, and to me this is one of the most beautiful," said McWhorter.