Thunderbird Foundation for the Arts

Artist Robert Clunie's work added to the Thunderbird Gallery

Artist Robert Clunie's work added to the Thunderbird Gallery

To kick off the launch of our new blog, the Thunderbird Foundation is excited to announce the acquisition of 4 stunning pieces from renowned artist Robert Clunie, including one that has great historical significance, called "Saginaw River." In addition, we're honored to have been named the representative for Clunie's pieces in this area. 

Artist Robert Clunie was a well loved American painter who, while highly regarded both critically and by the art buying public, took little interest in the trappings of the art world of his day, instead favoring prolonged journeys into the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada mountains alone and with friend and fellow mountaineer, nature writer Norman Clyde. 

A California plein air painter whose primary focus was on the beautiful mountain scenery of the state's High Sierras, Robert Clunie was originally born in Scotland. Becoming disillusioned with the class system in place in his home country, Clunie emigrated to the United States with his older brother when he was 16. The boys first settled in Saginaw, Michigan, a place that would later inspire one of his most important pieces (one that the Thunderbird foundation recently acquired). This piece, labelled "Saginaw River, Michigan" and called "Saginaw River" won first prize in the Academy of Western Painters exhibition in 1937 and it won third prize at the 1938 California Exposition and State Fair.

Clunie was anything but a traditionalist when it came to both style and his refusal to participate in urban art exhibitions. Nevertheless, his paintings received much praise and until the stock market crash of 1929, they sold very well. In the aftermath of the crash, Clunie's show at the Stendahl Gallery at the time saw not a single sale and when he went to retrieve his unsold paintings, his most popular (and one that he later said he felt was his best painting) called "The Cliff" had disappeared. The gallery had lost his most praised painting and it wouldn't be found until 1999, fifteen years after his death. To this day it's still uncertain how the painting was lost. Disspirited by this experience, Clunie vowed to never sell another piece through a gallery, an oath he stuck to; for the remainder of his career, he sold his work directly to collectors.


Despite his propensity for solitude, Clunie also gained a well deserved admiration from his fellow artists; Ansel Adams called one of his paintings, "Vaya Con Dios - St. Francis of Assisi Mission - Moonlight" a "masterpiece."


We're thrilled to include Robert Clunie's work in our gallery catalogue! For purchasing information, please call us at 435-648-2653 or email us here

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