The 1880s were the heyday of industrial Dunkirk. The Brooks Locomotive Works and Dunkirk Engineering, among other industrial businesses, and an emerging commercial fishing industry kept the city humming.
Yet amidst this atmosphere of a hard-working, blue-collar town emerged a young artist. His name was George W. Eggers and he was the son of a Dunkirk photographer named George Eggers. They lived in a house on a corner lot on Swan Street, one that included the elder Eggers's photographic studio.
The younger man, born in 1883, received a degree in fine arts from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 1903, but he was engaged in artistry long before that, drawing local scenes that included the old Dunkirk lighthouse and a scene of the commercial fishing waterfront. Many of his early works reflect life in Western New York, and he filled sketchbooks with the lake freighters, the docks, Chautauqua Institution and more. One scene depicted on the ticket for the upcoming Tour of Historic Dunkirk Houses shows the smokestacks of ALCO/Brooks and the Nelson Opera House, both long gone.
An art reception will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 6 at 715 Central Ave., Dunkirk.
Eggers the artist went on to hold important positions as the director of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1926, of the Denver Art Museum in 1921, and then the director of the Worcester, Mass., Art Museum in 1926. He instructed and prepared the Comprehensive Exhibition of American Art for Sweden, the first exhibition of the development of American Art ever sent abroad. He finally served as head of the City College of New York's Department of Art until his retirement in 1948. His work can be found at the Burchfield Penney, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, the Los Angeles Art Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the New York Public Library and the Honolulu Academy of Arts.
On Sept. 6, an art reception will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the STEL offices at 715 Central Ave., the former Gross Mansion and rectory of Cardinal Mindszenty High School. A representative from the Burchfield Penney Art Center will bring samples of Eggers's art and be present to discuss the artist and his work. For those in the city who appreciate art and who appreciate the success of a local young man born and bred in Dunkirk, this provides an opportunity to learn more about those who occupied this city's history.
Refreshments will be available. The event is free and open to the public. Donations to the Dunkirk Historical Museum, though, will be gratefully accepted.