Bernard Dunstan RA
Bernard Dunstan was a successful figurative artist in the tradition of Degas, Walter Sickert and Vuillard. With his wife, muse and fellow Royal Academician Diana Armfield, he formed a devoted artistic household in Kew, London, for nearly 70 years.
Dunstan and his wife, who met at art school during the Second World War, became a kind of institution of traditional post-Impressionist painting in the British art world, described by the critic Brian Sewell as “true painters, both, content with ancestral tradition, content to be what they have always been, affectionate in their seeing, tender in its translation into paint.
Dunstan would begin every morning doing a quick nude drawing of his wife. These were his ‘two minuters’, used as a morning exercise to keep his mind active. Some of these would form the basis for his finished works in oil or pastel. Whilst the figure was always paramount, other characteristic subjects included musical scenes, Italian landscapes and some (early) portraits. He constantly experimented with light and, relishing the practical crafts, prepared his own panels with rabbit skin and chalk, and even regularly gilded his own frames with red gesso.
Throughout his long life and alongside his prolific output of paintings, Dunstan worked as an art tutor, writer, judge of portraiture, editor, and lover of the North Wales Valleys (where he was a virulent opponent of wind farms!) At the time of his death, passing away in 2017 at the age of 97, he was the longest ever serving Royal Academician, having been first elected in 1968. His work is held in many public collections including the National Portrait Gallery and Museum of London.