If you want to trace the development of American art from the 1930s to the 1960s, you can get a pretty comprehensive overview by just seeing the works of Charles Bunnell.
The subject of a new solo show at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Bunnell "got his head around all of the major movements in art of the 20th century," says museum director Blake Milteer.
Born in Kansas City, Bunnell moved to Colorado Springs in 1915 and was a student at the Broadmoor Art Academy in 1927 and 1928, learning the traditional skills of drawing and painting in a classical, representational style. He went on to teach there in 1929, and would stay in the Springs his entire career. But along the way, he kept an eye on cutting-edge developers elsewhere — for instance, Abstract Expressionists like Willem and Elaine de Kooning and Jackson Pollock.
As early as the 1930s, Bunnell started to introduce greater abstraction into his work. Though his paintings still depicted landscapes and people, they started to feel very Cubist, says Milteer. A thread of Surrealism showed up in the 1940s, before becoming pure abstraction by the 1950s.
Even so, Bunnell paid tribute to his surroundings. He lived on the south side of Garden of the Gods, and many of his paintings depict its recognizable landmarks; even in abstract, you can make out the profile of Pikes Peak. Mining towns are another Colorado motif depicted in his earlier paintings.
"He had this clear love for architecture," Milteer says, "and the relationship between the kinds of different angles and forms that happen in architectural structures."
The 75 paintings and sketches in the show will be arranged in roughly chronological order, and accompanied by a full-color catalog. They hail from public and private collections both national and local, including the renowned Jim and Virginia Moffett Collection of Kansas City, Denver's Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art, and Jim Raughton and Kathy Loo of the Springs.