George Dunbar (1927–2024)

George Dunbar, Coin du Lestin, 1996. Silver leaf, pigment, clay. Gift of Richard Johnson, 96.353.

A significant artistic figure in New Orleans and Louisiana, George Dunbar shaped the course of abstract art in the American South with a career spanning over 75 years. At the New Orleans Museum of Art, we are honored to have had a long and meaningful relationship with George.

George had his first solo exhibition at the museum in the 1950s and in 2016, we had the privilege of presenting George Dunbar: Elements of Chance, the first comprehensive retrospective of his work. It was a unique opportunity to get to know the breadth of his artistic vision and his thoughtful consideration of the environment, all revealed through the mediums in which he worked. Weekend visits in the studio and easy afternoons at Pleasure Point with George and Louisette are treasured memories for so many of us.  

Early in his career, the Louisiana native studied art in Philadelphia and often frequented the New York School haunts of Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, and Willem DeKooning. Upon his return to his home state, George solidified his exploration of geometric abstraction, while also highlighting the distinctive, lush landscapes of South Louisiana through his choice of color, materials, and a complex visual vocabulary uniquely his own. His work bridged local, national, and international artistic inquiry around the role of modern art, always true to his fundamental commitment to abstraction.

He was also a founder of Orleans Gallery, New Orleans’s first artist-owned and operated collective art gallery, a haven for artists that bolstered the foundation of a vibrant tradition of contemporary art in our city. George’s innumerable contributions in the studio and beyond welcomed New Orleans and Louisiana to the excitement of contemporary art and artists.

On behalf of NOMA, I send our deepest condolences to George’s family and friends. 

—Susan M. Taylor, The Montine McDaniel Freeman Director