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IHS Press Releases Life of Frank Virgil Dudley, Painter of the Dunes

October 13, 2021

In the latest release from the Indiana Historical Society (IHS) Press, “Painter of the Dunes: A Life of Frank Virgil Dudley,” author Rachel Berenson Perry chronicles the creative life of the artist whose fascination with the Indiana Dunes helped establish it as a state park in 1925.

Once his photographer brother introduced him to the sand dunes of Indiana and vicinity in 1911, Frank Virgil Dudley devoted the rest of his creative life to painting landscapes of the area’s stunning scenery and unique diversity, becoming one of the state’s preeminent artists. His well-earned titles of “Seer of the Dunes” and “Painter of the Dunes” allude to his almost obsessive subject matter as well as his activism to save the dunes.

The focus of nearly a century of battles between environmentalists and developers, the Indiana Dunes lie within a few hours’ drive to the south and east of Chicago. The desire to protect the lakeshore from industrial construction and to preserve it for recreation and scientific research unified preservationists, artists, outdoor enthusiasts and scientists.

Dudley was transformed by a Dunes Pageant, organized to rally support for the dunes movement and attended by thousands of enthusiasts in the spring of 1917. He began painting the dunes with newfound passion, to the exclusion of all else. Despite the advice of friends in the art world who cautioned him about limited his subject matter, he mounted a one-man exhibition of dunes paintings and also joined the Prairie Club, part of the dunes conservation movement, in 1918.

As Perry notes in the book, “Perhaps most significantly, in all seasons at all times of day, Dudley devoted his time and talent to capturing the Dunes on canvas. He regularly showed his paintings in Chicago exhibitions, awakening people to the treasured shoreline only a few hours away from the city.”

The artist’s professional credentials included more than 20 fine-art prizes and inclusion in scores of exhibitions, many of them solo shows.

“Painter of the Dunes: A Life of Frank Virgil Dudley” is made possible with generous support from Bob and Cheryl Swinehart and Bob and Barb Stevens. It is available through IHS’s Basile History Market and other places books are sold. For more information about the book or the IHS Press, call (317) 232-1882 or visit

About the Author
Rachel Berenson Perry is the former fine arts curator of the Indiana State Museum, where she organized and curated all of the art exhibitions from 2003 through 2011. She’s written numerous articles for American Art Review and Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History (Indiana Historical Society), and her books include The Life and Art of Felrath Hines: From Dark to Light (Indiana University Press, 2019); The House of the Singing Winds: The Life and Work of T.C. Steele (Indiana Historical Society Press, 2016); William J Forsyth: The Life and Work of an Indiana Artist (Indiana University Press, 2014); Painting Indiana III: Heritage of Place (Indiana University Press, 2013); Barry Gealt: Embracing Nature (Indiana University Press, 2012); Paint and Canvas: A Biography of T.C. Steele (Indiana Historical Society, 2012); T.C. Steele and the Society of Western Artists 1896-1914 (Indiana University Press, 2009); and Children from the Hills: The Life and Work of Ada Walter Shulz (Artist Colony Press, 2001). She currently lives in Nashville, Indiana.


Title:                            Painter of the Dunes: A Life of Frank Virgil Dudley

Publisher:                    Indiana Historical Society Press

Pages:                         140

Size:                            6 x 9

Cover:                         Hardcover

Publication Date:        March 2021

Cost:                            $19.95

ISBN:                           978-0-87195-454-1

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