John Ward Dunsmore, born in Riley, Butler County, Ohio, February 29, 1856, studied with Thomas Noble at the McMicken School of Design in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was then in Paris from 1875 to 1879 studying at the Petite Ecole with Aimee Millet and privately with Thomas Couture. His first appearance in the National Academy exhibition was in 1879.
When he returned to America it was to settle in Boston. While there he was awarded a medal from the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association in 1881. However, after about five years in Boston he returned to Europe, where he worked in Paris and England, executing a series of paintings on the life and times of French King Louis IV. He exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1878 and also at the Suffolk Street Gallery in London.
In 1888, Dunsmore was in Detroit to assume the post of director of the new Detroit Museum (now the Detroit institute of Arts). Two years later he became director of the Detroit School of Arts, a position he retained until 1894. He then returned to Cincinnati, Ohio.
By 1902 Dunsmore had settled in New York and begun researching the American Revolutionary War, eventually becoming an authority on the subject. He frequently exhibited these subjects in Academy annual exhibitions, in which he was consistently represented from 1902 until 1941. He was also represented at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893.
Dunsmore was a member of the American Watercolor Society, the American Fine Arts Society, the Artists Fund Society, the Salmagundi Club, and the American Artists Professional League of which he was a founding member. While in Detroit he was also president of the Rembrandt Etching Club.
The artist died at Dover, New Jersey on October 7, 1945.