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Julian Onderdonk (American, 1882-1922)
Born and raised in San Antonio, Julian Onderdonk (1882-1922) spent his childhood exploring the South Texas hill country. His father, a painter, also instilled in his son an enthusiasm for sketching and drawing at a young age, and fortunately for Onderdonk, a wealth of possibilities were hiding in the vast landscape of his own backyard.
At the turn of the century when he was 19 years old, Julian left Texas to study at the Art Students League under prominent artists Kenyon Cox, Frank DuMond and Robert Henri. He was also mentored by renowned American Impressionist William Merritt Chase, with whom his father also trained for a period of time. It was under this tutelage that Onderdonk’s style and vision as a young artist was truly cultivated.
In 1902, Julian decided to settle down in New York City to pursue a career as a plein air artist, where he met his wife and soon after became a father. While his personal life flourished, his professional aspirations had not yet come to fruition. Accordingly, Onderdonk and his new family returned to San Antonio, to his natural element where the root of his inspiration was first cultivated, in 1909. Upon his return, Onderdonk stayed true to his heritage and maintained the tonalist style imparted by his father, but also continued to apply the principles and Impressionist approach taught by his mentor, William Chase.
Best-known for his powerful interpretations of the Southwest landscape—with scores of bluebonnet fields, cactus and life oaks with Spanish moss, morning mist lifting into vibrant Texas skies and colors of the changing seasons—Julian Onderdonk’s work first became recognized locally and then, as his reputation as the “Bluebonnet Painter” grew, captivated a wider audience that spread across the country. His last paintings, Dawn in the Hills and Autumn Tapestry, among his most impressive, were on the way to New York for the annual exhibition of the National Academy of Design for 1922 at the time of his death.
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