• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2072

    California, Western and American Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture

    29 October 2008, Beverly Hills

  • Lot 44

    William Herbert Dunton (1878-1936)

    Follerin' the Tracks

    Price Realised  


    William Herbert Dunton (1878-1936)
    Follerin' the Tracks
    signed and dated 'W. Herbert Dunton/'07' (lower left)
    oil en grisaille on canvas
    30 x 18 in. (76.2 x 45.7 cm.)

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    The present painting appeared in the June 1907 issue of Everybody's magazine with the following caption: We Didn't Have No Trouble Follerin' the Tracks of That Wagon.

    The sixth charter member of the Taos Society of Artists, William "Buck" Dunton distinguished himself from his contemporaries by primarily focusing on the fleeting life of the cattle country of the West and Southwest that followed the vanishing era of the American Indian.

    Even at a young age, Dunton was recognized for his advanced draftsmanship, and while still a teenager his drawings appeared in local newspapers in Maine as well as the Boston Globe. Following school, Dunton pursued his desire for exploration and thrill-seeking adventure and traveled west to Montana. There, among the cattle outfits, he began an intense study of animal anatomy, carefully rendering in pencil with painstaking detail the musculature, expression, and movement of the horses and wildlife he encountered. The young artist continued to travel throughout the West, covering territories from Oregon to Mexico, returning to New York in the winter to a career in commercial illustration and classes at the Art Students League under the director of Ernest L. Blumenschein.

    According to scholar Michael R. Grauer, "Dunton's career as an illustrator of Western subjects coincided with and benefitted from the 'cowboy-craze' that swept the United States following the publication of Owen Wister's The Virginian in 1902. Unlike most artists, Dunton's seasonal work as a cowboy and hunter in the West from 1896 to 1911 equipped him to lend 'authenticity' to illustrations for Western stories. By 1906 Dunton's popularity resulted in commissions for magazines such as Cosmopolitan Magazine, Harper's Monthly, and Scribner's, and books by Harold Bindloss, Zane Grey, Alfred Henry Lewis, and others." (unpublished letter dated August 4, 2008)

    Dunton's passionate and deeply concentrated dedication to his subject is evident in a work such as Follerin' the Tracks, where he captures the musculature and form of the horse and the posturing of the pioneer leading him down the path with an economy of palette and brushwork. Grauer goes on to say that "Dunton's handling of the figures in Follerin' the Tracks exemplify his proficiency at painting from life. The models were probably his handyman, Andy Daniels, and his horse, Nestor. The artist's skill at foreshortening with the horse--which became something of a Dunton signature element--is also revealed."

    This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work being compiled by Michael R. Grauer.


    Private collection, Cleveland, Ohio, circa 1940s.
    By descent to the present owner.


    G.W. Ogden, "The Lonesomeness," Everybody's, June 1907, p. 782, illustrated.