This was a most incredible feat, made possible by Clunie’s passion for the Sierra. He thrived on her harsh environment and captured it en plein-air, while others, being limited by it, made only token examples back in their studios. No man knew this subject better than Robert Clunie. The same determination was unmistakable at the early age of 15, when he was banned from his home because of rebellious acts toward his native Scotland’s rigid class distinctions. He knew his options—“this country is unjust; I want to go to America.”
After spending seven years in Michigan and New York City, he traveled west, arriving in California in 1918 with a well-established art career; he found it to be a painter’s paradise. Clunie was blessed with superb drawing abilities that gave his work a distinct, finished look; his paintings showed remarkable balance of design with strong values, bringing them alive with light.
In following his artistic star, Clunie’s life took many unpredictable turns during the next 66 years in California. His career was well documented by a 35-year exhibition record in the Los Angeles museum shows until 1950, when petty artistic rivalries caused him to turn his back on the art world.
For almost 60 years, Robert Clunie lived and painted in the Eastern Sierra working out of his art studio-residence, now the site of Coons Gallery. He spent summers at his well-established camps at Fourth and Fifth Lakes in Big Pine Canyon beneath the Palisades, painting as quickly as he could to fill orders for customers. He often commented that he would never finish in his lifetime all of the commissions he had. Clunie died in Bishop in 1984. He and his wife Myrtle are buried in Santa Paula, California, where they first met in the early 1900s. — Richard Coons ©2012 Coons Gallery