About the Artist:

Julian Onderdonk (1882–1922)
A Cloudy Day, Bluebonnets near San Antonio, Texas, 1918
Oil on canvas
Purchase with funds from the Ruth Carter Stevenson Acquisitions Endowment, in honor of Lady Bird Johnson
Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas


Julian Onderdonk (1882–1922), A Cloudy Day, Bluebonnets near San Antonio, Texas, 1918, oil on canvas, purchase with funds from the Ruth Carter Stevenson Acquisition Endowment, in honor of Lady Bird Johnson, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, 1998.10






During his brief life, Julian Onderdonk achieved fame as Texas’ most accomplished painter of impressionistic landscapes. Early in his career, the artist began to paint his canvases in the open landscape, rather than in the studio as most American artists had done traditionally.

Born in San Antonio in 1882, Julian Onderdonk was raised in a cultured environment, and his education in the arts was fostered at an early age at the direction of his father, artist Robert Onderdonk. In 1901, at the age of eighteen he studied at New York’s Art Students League, as his father had before him, where he came under the influence of celebrated teacher and painter William Merritt Chase (1849–1916). He wrote home, “. . . I long to get out in the open air with my palette in one hand and brush in the other and be able to smear paint all over the landscape.” He excelled in the areas Chase emphasized: the direct observation of nature and a fresh, elemental approach to the act of painting itself.

While in New York City, Onderdonk married Gertrude Shipman. In 1904 Onderdonk moved with his wife and baby daughter to the borough of Staten Island, where he opened a painting school with another young artist, Guy Pène du Bois (1884–1958). Although the school struggled and Onderdonk was often plagued by debt, he painted diligently and managed to sell his works through a number of dealers. He visited museums and galleries, where he studied Old Master paintings and kept abreast of new painting trends. By the time Onderdonk returned to San Antonio in 1909, he was exhibiting and selling his work with considerable success. His paintings of bluebonnets, a wildflower, were especially popular.

In 1913 two of his Texas landscapes were accepted for the annual exhibition at the National Academy of Design in New York. By 1918 Onderdonk’s work was sufficiently in demand that he no longer took commissions. The United States had entered World War I, and he tried unsuccessfully to join the army’s Camouflage Service. He continued to travel to various parts of central Texas, where he filled his sketchbooks and created many paintings.

In the last years of his life, Onderdonk was continually pushing himself to meet various obligations and deadlines. From 1906 until his death, he organized art exhibitions for the Texas State Fair, which under his guidance had grown into the preeminent art event in the Southwest. His duties required extended visits to New York to choose works for the exhibition. It was a shock when he died suddenly at the age of forty after undergoing a routine operation.

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