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Louis Bunce

American, 1907-1983


Lander August 13, 1907

Occupation or Type



Northwest artist

Oregon artist


Louis Bunce came to Portland with his parents in 1913. He attended high school and the Museum Art School before leaving for the Art Students League in New York. He established a New York connection that began when he first attended classes there in 1927 and continued over the years with frequent visits. He became friends with many promising artists, including Jackson Pollock and David Smith. In 1939 he worked for the WPA Easel Project in New York and by the time he returned to Portland he was an established artist on the East Coast. He worked at the WPA art center in Salem as an Instructor and Assistant Director. His work included murals, two of which are in the Post Offices in Grants Pass and St. Johns. Their subjects, mining and orchard farming, are activities of each region. "I have always been visually drawn to the landscape, at first the desert and mountain regions of Wyoming; then the lush and gentle color of the Pacific Northwest and the urban landscape of New York." From 1942-1945 he worked as an illustrator, a tool designer, and in assembly for the Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation. After WWII, Bunce joined the faculty of the Museum Art School in Portland, where he had been a student in 1925-1926. He taught there until his retirement in 1972. He excelled at producing screenprints and introduced this technique to Oregon. While maintaining a national reputation throughout the 1950s and 1960s, some of New York's most prestigious galleries represented him. Theater buffs will remember his murals and portraits for Portland Civic Theater's 1938 production of Pride and Prejudice. In a career that made him one of the most recognized names in Oregon's art history, Bunce had many styles: cubism, expressionism, surrealism and abstractionism. His 1958 mural in the Portland International Airport presents this abstract style: "whirling propellers and shadows of the concourse as seen from above." It was controversial at the time as being too abstract for a public art project. Louis and wife Eda opened a full-time art gallery in Portland in 1949, called the Kharouba. Located first at 1016 SE Morrison, then at SW 11th and Alder, the gallery represented many of the leading artists of the day: Josephine Cameron, William Givler, Clifford Gleason, Jack Hammack, Charles Heaney, Frederick Heidel, George Johanson, Jack McLarty, Rick Norwood, C.S. Price, Arthur Runquist, Jolan Torok, Charles Voorhies, Milton Wilson, and Duane Zaloudek, among others.

Artist biography reproduced with permission from the authors, Oregon Painters: the First Hundred Years (1859-1959), Ginny Allen and Jody Klevit.



Related People

Assistant to: John R. Ballator (American, 1909-1967)

Associate of: Clifford Gleason (American, 1914-1978)

Associate of: Claude McGraw (American, 1919-1978)

Associate of: Jack McLarty (American, 1919-2011)

Associate of: Harry F. Widman, Jr. (American, 1929-2014)

Teacher of: Milton Wilson (American, 1923-2004)

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