A new exhibition of the work of Frank V. Dudley, known as “The Painter of the Dunes,” opens Saturday, Jan. 28, at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis. Created during different stages of Dudley’s career, 28 paintings will be on display through June 25. The title of the exhibition is “Inspired by the Dunes: Paintings by Frank V. Dudley.”
“The Indiana Dunes is an amazing stretch of shoreline in northwest Indiana that is unlike anywhere else in the state, and Frank Dudley not only created beautiful paintings of it, but he was a tremendous advocate for its preservation,” said Mark Ruschman, senior curator of fine arts and culture. “When you think of today’s artists being activists for social causes, that’s very much what he was doing in the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s, with the desire to save the Dunes from overdevelopment and the encroaching industries from either side.”
In addition to showcasing Dudley’s art, the exhibit will include an interactive demonstration about the formation of the Indiana Dunes and why they’re ecologically significant. The Indiana Dunes became a national park in 2019, although the Indiana Dunes State Park had been around since 1925.
In about 1908, Dudley was introduced by his brother Clarence to the area of the Indiana Dunes that is now part of the state park. Dudley painted the Dunes almost exclusively starting in 1917 until his death in 1957. In 1923, he and his wife, Maida, built a cottage at the Dunes and would spend summers there.
A few years after the Dunes became a state park, the cottage became state property and the Dudleys were required to pay rent. In lieu of payment, the state agreed to accept a painting a year as rent. Nineteen of the so-called “rental paintings” are in the Indiana State Museum’s permanent collection; six will be on display in “Inspired by the Dunes: Paintings of Frank V. Dudley.”
“The key takeaway from this exhibit is that his life was such a remarkable story,” Ruschman said. “He was already a successful painter when he first visited the Dunes, and his paintings continue to inform us about the Dunes ecosystem, preservation and conservation, and the way the Dunes still inspire artists today.”
The exhibit is free with museum admission, which is $16 for adults, $15 for seniors, $11 for children and $5 for current college students with an Indiana school ID. For more information, call (317) 232-1637.