Gus Bundy Papers

Identifier: 85-20
Collection contains business records of Bundy's work as a free-lance professional photographer, especially using images of wild horses in Nevada, correspondence with Guy Shipler, Albert Deutsch, Roger Butterfield, and others, copies of his published articles, including those on the 1960 Winter Olympic Games in Squaw Valley, California, and the Nevada State Prison.


  • 1948-1986


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Permission to publish must be obtained from Jeanne Bundy.

Conditions Governing Use

Publication of materials from this collection may require donor permission. Requests for copies of photographic images and other materials in the collection require donor permission.


1.25 Cubic Feet (2 boxes)


Creator of this collection, Gus Bundy was a Nevada artist and photographer who was best known for his photos of wild horses. Collection contains business records of Bundy's work as a free lance professional photographer, especially using images of wild horses in Nevada, correspondence with northern Nevadans, and published articles ranging from 1948-1986.

Biographical Note

August "Gus" Bundy was born in New York City in 1907, a member of a large family. He began to pursue art a young age. A teacher at the high school Bundy attended, impressed by his work, recommended him for an opening at the Brooklyn Museum Art Students League. That was the beginning of Bundy's career as an artist. Later, another break occurred when he had the opportunity to attend the Grand Central School of Art. It was at this school that Bundy met the person who most influenced him: Arshile Gorky, described by an art historian "as the direct link between the European surrealist painters and the painters of the U.S. Abstract Expressionist movement." The classes Bundy attended were filled with violin music because Gorky wanted his students to express their feelings in their drawings. Bundy also had the added advantage of being singled out to accompany Gorky to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Bundy became a teacher early in his career. He taught at the Lincoln School of Art and, remarkable for so young an artist, at the New School of Social Research. The New School, in its Bulletin No. 5 of 1931, described his course as a design workshop, where the work "will be freely creative in any possible medium." The tuition was $6.00 a month.

Despite these promises of a successful artistic career and a growing reputation as a photographer in New York City, where he shared a studio with a friend, Bundy decided to give in to a wanderlust. In 1927 he worked as a seaman on the SS Aryan. He returned to Manhattan and during the Depression decided on a whim to wander around Mississippi. A severe bout of malaria put an end (temporarily, as it later turned out) to his travels.

The ensuing period was productive. His paintings were exhibited at the New York No-Jury Exhibition Salons at The Forum in Rockefeller Center in 1934, and a year later he guided youthful artists at the Boys' Club of the Navy Yard District in Brooklyn in painting "nautical murals" on the walls of the club's auditorium. Toward the end of the same year, according to a report in the New York World-Telegram, the Kamin Bookshop was "featuring the linoleum cuts of Bundy" in that season's original and "unusual Christmas cards."

Financially, it must have been a difficult period. In 1937 Bundy did a stint as a reporter for the Brooklyn Eagle. Two years later he was off to Japan, buying curios and shipping them back to the United States.

It was in Kobe in 1940 that he met and married Jeanne Amberg, a young Swiss woman who had been born in Japan and was still living there. The marriage changed his life in more ways than one. It made him seriously consider where he would permanently live. When Jeanne was expecting a baby, he decided New York City was no place to raise a child. He preferred the remote area where he had visited a friend in 1939 on his way to Japan: Washoe Valley, Nevada.

He settled there in 1941, even though it was only a small house and garage, without electricity or adequate water. The setting was both scenic and historical. The Sierra was the backyard, and the place had once been the town of Ophir, the ore mill of the Comstock.

He was one of the very few artists then living in Northern Nevada. "Artists were regarded as very strange," he recalled in a 1980 interview. What made it more difficult for him to fit into his new surroundings was his additional interest in theater. Nevertheless, it was home, although during this period he spent some time serving the military in Maine, photographing a series of tests of winter gear that the army carried out.

By the time he moved to Nevada, he had developed skill in a variety of artistic endeavors. For him, painting was first, then photography. As his wife Jeanne put it, "He was in a sense a Renaissance Man—not content with just one form of creative expression. He painted, sculpted, made jewelry, did photography and worked with wood. He built things—he was fascinated with the process of creation."

Although he found nature most attractive—another reason for settling in Nevada—his primary interest was in people. They dominate most of his artwork—the sculpture and carvings, but especially the drawings, paintings, and photographs. What emerges in those three media is Bundy's ability to go beyond simple portraiture and delineate the personality of the subject, whether it is a laborer or fisherman in Mexico or a friend in Carson City. He continued to paint portraits into his later years.

Bundy's presence made an enormous difference to the art world of Northern Nevada. He was always part of the nucleus of some group or another. He had an affinity for and was drawn to all creative people, not just artists. The group that met in the old brewery in Virginia City included such writers as Walter Van Tilburg Clark and Roger Butterfield. (Bundy wrote poetry, too.) Bundy, in fact, remembered fondly an art gallery on the main street of Virginia City. Later, he organized a portrait workshop which continued to function for more than two decades until he and Marge Means were the only remaining members of the original group.

His presence also made a difference in the attitudes toward wild horses. The photographs he took of horsemeat hunters rounding up the horses made the world aware of how cruelly they were treated. Not only did his pictures help convince lawmakers in Washington, D. C., to strengthen measures to protect the horses, but they were published in many parts of the world for more than thirty years.

[Adapted from the Online Nevada Encyclopedia article on Gus Bundy written by Jim McCormick, June 1, 1990.]


Arranged without hierarchy.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Jeanne Bundy in January 1986. Additional material donated by Gus Bundy's daughter, Leotine Nappe, in August 2011.
Guide to the Gus Bundy Papers
Jessica Maddox
March 2018
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)