Released January 9, 2023

Indiana State Museum Presents ‘Inspired by the Dunes: Paintings by Frank V. Dudley’

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana State Museum will celebrate the work of Frank V. Dudley – as both a landscape painter and a conservationist – with a new exhibition, “Inspired by the Dunes: Paintings by Frank V. Dudley,” Jan. 28-June 25.

Dudley’s artwork, inspired by the beauty of the Indiana Dunes, helped to preserve the rare ecosystem where people come to explore, study, enjoy and create. Visitors will see 28 paintings from throughout his career. They’ll step into one of his beach scenes, learn about his life and see how his work influenced authors, photographers, poets and artists – including contemporary artist Jason Wesaw, a member of the Potawatomi Nation – who continue to find inspiration in the Dunes landscape.

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.

“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.”

Dudley was born in Delevan, Wisc., in 1868 but spent a good portion of his adult life living in Chicago, where he painted mostly landscapes and still-lifes. In about 1908, he was introduced to the Indiana Dunes – 17 years before it became a state park – by his brother Clarence, who used to take trips there when it was wide-open land.

Dudley, who became known as “The Painter of the Dunes,” is said to initially have had reservations about the Dunes, but he came around to paint them almost exclusively starting in 1917 till 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 exhibit also will feature some of the 53 Dudley paintings the state purchased from Maida after her husband’s death, now in the museum’s permanent collection.

“We now have probably the largest collection of Dudley paintings in public or private hands,” Ruschman said. “Since it is such a significant and important part of our collection, this exhibit gives us the opportunity to showcase an important part of our collection and a large selection from it.”

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 Dunes became a national park in 2019.

“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.”


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The Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites is a statewide museum system with 12 locations, offering visitors a chance to engage with Indiana’s past and present and see how their actions help shape the future. At each location, visitors are invited to explore big questions and create lasting experiences that will resonate long after each visit ends. Whether interested in art or architecture, history or science, there’s something for everyone and every interest. The Indianapolis museum is located in White River State Park in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. The historic sites are located statewide, stretching from Rome City in northeastern Indiana to Evansville in the southwest.