Robert Clunie Plein-Air Painter of the Sierra

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9780966541403: Robert Clunie Plein-Air Painter of the Sierra

In 1915, Robert Clunie came to America from Scotland. It wasnÕt until 1928 that he made his first trip to the Sierra Nevada. Inspired by the massive scale and dramatic lighting of the harsh landscape, he painted the Olivas Pack Station beneath Mount Whitney and Lone Pine Peak, his first plein-air painting of the Sierra.

Just months before the stock market crash of 1929 and the beginning of the Great Depression, Clunie hired a mule packer to carry him and his painting gear to Fourth and Fifth Lakes above Upper Glacier Lodge in Big Pine Canyon. Over the next fifty years, Clunie returned to the lakes every summer for two months to paint. He camped in a canvas tent and cooked his meals in cast iron pots, sharing them with weary mountain travelers. His pots are still hidden beneath the white bark pines as he left them more than a quarter-century ago.

When ClunieÕs painting, Fourth Lake Meadow, was stolen from a gallery exhibition in Los Angeles, he decided it was time to move to Bishop, an isolated town on the periphery of the vast sagebrush desert of the Great Basin and eastern Sierra Nevada. Clunie died in 1984, never knowing what happened to his stolen painting, Fourth Lake Meadow, which he had always considered to be one of his best works.

Though his paintings have often been compared to those of Thomas Hart Benton, Robert Clunie painted in relative obscurity due in part to his geographical isolation and refusal to participate in urban art exhibitions. Also, the intense realism of his landscapes, painted in mountain terrain accessible to only the hardiest mountaineers, did not meet the traditional expectations of what the viewing public expected mountain landscapes to be: looking up at purple mountains and blue sky from the edge of a foreground meadow or lakeÑa traditional and accepted view of the mountain landscape. Robert Clunie, Sierra Nevada realist and resident, spent his entire life painting the mountains he loved.

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About the Author:

Richard Coons started painting when he was 47 years old. He was trained in the plein-air tradition by Robert Clunie (California Art Club, 1930-1958), Larry Kronquist, and marine painter, Bennett Bradbury. He studied at Laguna Beach Art School.

Inspired by the sea, the desert, but mostly by his beloved Sierra Nevada, he lived his entire life in the remote Eastern Sierra town of Bishop, California.

He was married to Wynne Benti Coons, an artist and owner of a small publishing company.

Born in Los Angeles, California, on December 13, 1929, the middle son of Grace Manley Coons and William Rowland Coons, a hydrographer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and a surveyor on the construction of the Tioga Road on Yosemite's east side.

In the fall of 1945, Richard Coons was asked by his grandfather to assist him with a delivery of concrete blocks to newcomer and fine artist, Robert Clunie, for construction of Clunie's art studio on the North Fork of Bishop Creek and Sierra Highway. Then a student at Bishop Union High School in the Eastern Sierra, Coons was a ski racer and friend of Dave McCoy, founder of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Aware of the young man's notable track accomplishments as reported in the local newspaper, and as an athlete of some note himself, Clunie struck up a conversation about sports with Coons.

Destiny or chance, it was a meeting that changed the course of Richard Coons' life. Thirty years later, when he quit his business as a building contractor, divorced his fist wife, gave away all of his possessions, choosing instead the path of a plein-air oil painter, the elder Clunie became his mentor. When Clunie died in 1984, Coons purchased his art studio. In 1998, Coons wrote and published the definitive volume on his mentor's life: "Robert Clunie Plein-Air Painter of the Sierra".

An artist member of the California Art Club, Richard participated in many exhibitions, including several California Art Club Gold Medal Shows as well as a joint exhibition with Robert Clunie at the Ventura County Historical Museum. He won many awards and placed in the National Parks Art For the Parks Top 100 competition. He was a prolific painter, estimating having painted close to 4,000 realist canvases of the Sierra Nevada.

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Richard Coons, Richard Coons (Illustrator), Richard Coons (Photographer), Robert Clunie (Painter), Robert Clunie (Photographer)
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