Telluride Gallery Remembers Dan Budnik

Acclaimed photographer Dan Budnik, who captured enduring images of 1950s artists at work and key events of the civil rights movement, died August 14, 2020. He was 87 years old. View available work here. Read the New York Times obituary here. And currently up at the Telluride Gallery, a group show featuring Works on Paper.

Photojournalist Dan Budnik (b. 1933, Long Island, NY), a heavyweight champion of portraiture, is most fondly remembered for his striking portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr just moments after his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington. TIME magazine chose Budnik’s portrait of King for its “I Have a Dream” 50th-anniversary issue in 2013.

In 1999, Dan Budnik donated this photograph “Will Henry ‘Do Right’ Rogers with his hand-made flag” to the Telluride Public School. This photograph proudly hangs in the school to this day with a handwritten note from Dan that reads – “For the students and teachers of Telluride. In the spirit of ‘Do Right’ and freedom.”

Other famed Civil Rights portraits include the following:

Mrs. Frannie Kent Observing the Passing Marchers from her Porch at 939 Oak Street, Framed 17″ x 13″.

Waiting for the Buses to Return Home – 140,000 People Came via Trains and Buses, Framed 17″ x 13″.

Budnik is also notably remembered for photographing the New York School of Abstract Expressionists and Pop artists in the mid-fifties, making them a primary focus for several decades.

The story goes like this. Right after WWII, New York City, no longer Paris, became the center of the art world, and a (largely) boy’s club known as the Abstract Expressionists became superstars. Arguably the most famous member of the group was Jackson Pollack, whose explosive energy best summed up a movement that was all about the act of painting.

Rothko was in that elite fraternity of painters and sculptors too, so were Willem De Kooning, Jasper Johns, Phillip Guston, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Ad Reinhardt, David Smith, and Barnett Newman.

Ellsworth Kelly (1923 – 2015), Betty Parson’s Gallery, 57th Street, New York, 1964, unframed 17″ x 22″ 1/2′

) Jasper Johns (1930- ) with Targets, at the Ernst haas Studio, East 71st Street, New York 1958, unframed 17″ x 22″ 1/2′

Willem De Kooning (1904 – 1997) with cartouche for painting in background, The Springs Studio, New York 1986, unframed 17″ x 22″ 1/2′

Budnik also created photo essay on Willem de Kooning, David Smith and Georgia O’Keefe among many other artists, capturing those superstars of the art world in action, his images consistently conveying emotional depth, while striking a delicate balance between fine art and frank humanity.

Dan Budnik Georgia O’Keeffe, Potting Shed II Silver gelatin print.

“Dan Budnik’s portraits of fine artists intrigued me. I became motivated to dig deeper into their work and learn more about art history,” said Baerbel Hacke, longtime former director, Telluride Gallery of Fine Art.

The Telluride Gallery has continuously represented Dan Budnik’s work since the 1990s. Dan had a special connection to Telluride and its community. While visiting he enjoyed giving inspirational talks at the Telluride Library and public school, as well as connecting with community members at the Gallery.

The Telluride Gallery team will remember Dan Budnik fondly.

Selected Museum Collections

Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Albright-Knox Museum, Buffalo, NY
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona
Fine Arts Museum of Houston, Houston, TX
Guild Hall, East Hampton, NY
Ludwig Museum, Cologne, Germany

Selected Grants

Polaroid Foundation: Big Mountain: Hopi Navajo Forced Relocation, 1980
National Endowment for the Arts | Hudson River Ecology Project, 1973

Selected Awards

American Society of Media Photographers INC | Honor Award, 1998
In the company of, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange, Man Ray, Walker Evans, Ansel Adams, Brett Weston, Ernst Haas

Selected Publications

Marching to the Freedom Dream, 2014 Trolley Books
Picturing Artists (1950’s-1960’s), 2007 Knoedler & Company
The Book of Elders, 1994 Harper-Collins
Georgia O’Keeffe- Another Look, 1992 Addison Wesley
Rome, 1976 Time Life Great Cities Series
The Sierra Madre, 1975 Time Life Wilderness Series
The Museum, A Guide to the Museum of Modern Art in NY, 1970

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Susan Viebrock

Susan is Telluride Inside… and Out’s founder and editor-in-chief, the visionary on the team, in charge of content, concept and development. For 19+ years, Susan has covered Telluride’s cultural economy, which includes non-profits and special events. Much of her writing features high-profile individuals in the arts, entertainment, business, and politics. She is a former Citibank executive specializing in strategic planning and new business development, and a certified Viniyoga instructor.

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