Pittsburgh Abstraction Kicks Off Tuesday Auction

Red White and Blue by Nathan Dunn, Gray'sSeveral works by Abstract painter Nathan Dunn kicked off today’s auction at Gray’s in Cleveland. The artist is closely associated with Cleveland’s rival city of Pittsburgh.

Dunn studied at Carnegie Institute of Technology and became best known for his works throughout Pittsburgh, Ohio, and West Virginia. He also painted in Cape Cod, Massachusetts during the northern summers. It was Ohio that gave Dunn his first one-man show, however.

The Butler Institute of American Art at that time known as The Butler Gallery was the site of the 1957 show. The museum holds the artist’s work in its collection today. Dunn would go on to exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh Playhouse and the Canton Art Institute in Ohio.

Dunn was also said to have been represented in the art collection of actor Vincent Price.

He was a member of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh.

Downtown Sharon by Nathan Dunn GraysWith most art works fetching in the $100 range, today’s auction may have reinvigorated the artist’s post-mortem career. While not big money as far as the art world goes, several of the works topped $1,000. Compared to other 20th Century regional artists, that still puts Dunn well in the affordable category.

The works offered at auction included examples of regional realism, included images of Pittsburgh. A particularly strong work was a view of Downtown Sharon (1945), a Pennsylvania community North of Pittsburgh and not far from the Butler Institute in Youngstown.

Compared to the work held at the Butler, The Cove from 1959, some of the works offered today were more abstract including Red, White and Blue, also from 1959. The undated Abstract Sail Boats recalls works by other mid-century artists deconstructions of regional marine scapes. The older abstract works seemed to be the strongest performers.

Is this the story of a forgotten artist rediscovered? Only time will tell. He may have just been an artist late to the game, creating “Ashcan”-looking works in the 1940s and abstract works in the 1950s and 60s. His works do seem to represent an affordable entry into the mid-century abstract market, and are an excellent addition into collections of regional artists from Western Pennsylvania and Ohio including anyone from George Hetzel to Clyde Singer.

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