Born of deaf parents at Delavan, Wisconsin, Frank Dudley (1868-1957) sketched the rolling hills and lakes of his boyhood haunts. His love of landscape led him to Chicago and its Art Institute, with his younger brother Clarence soon to follow. The two eventually established a portrait photography shop in the Union Park neighborhood on Chicago’s near west side. In the mid-1890s, Union Park Superintendent Jens Jensen was there experimenting with his "American Garden" of native prairie plants, just across the street from the Dudley brothers, boarding together, first on the east and then the west side of the park. By the turn of that century, Clarence Dudley and Jens Jensen were in the Indiana Dunes with their cameras.
Beginning in 1896, the Indiana Dunes on Lake Michigan’s southern shore drew the interests of botanist Henry Chandler Cowles, whose work on plant succession at the University of Chicago established the Dunes as North America’s "birthplace of ecology." In 1908, Jens Jensen began leading hikes to the Dunes, later establishing the Prairie Club that took the lead in a regional conservationist movement. Frank Dudley, established as a landscape artist in Chicago, followed his brother to the Dunes, finding purpose for his art and a mission to preserve a landscape.
The 1917 Dunes Pageant brought tens of thousands to Waverly Beach at the mouth of Dunes Creek to push for a national park. Frank Dudley painted the scene, devoting his career to painting the Dunes for the next forty years. As the struggle continues between private industry and environmentalists, Dudley’s pictures of his beloved Dunes still remind us of the need to protect a fragile landscape.