Julian Onderdonk

            Julian Onderdonk was born in San Antonio, Texas on July 30, 1882 was best known for his impressionist landscapes and bluebonnet paintings and showed a remarkable talent from his childhood.

            He received his early training from his father, Robert Jenkins Onderdonk (1852-1917) and at the age of eighteen he moved to New York and studied at the Art Students League, where he studied drawing under Kenyon Cox and landscape painting under William Merritt Chase, Frank DuMond and Robert Henri, winning recognition and always expressing individuality in his work. He remained studying and painting in New York for 9 years.

          The work of Julian Onderdonk is divided into several periods. His style changed somewhat in his later years, but regardless of the period in which they were done, all his pictures had "Roots deep in the soil of his native State". The divine spark urged him to express his emotional reactions to nature and fired him with an undying enthusiasm.

          Onderdonk married at an early age. Living in New York and sometimes working at his art day and night to support his family.

          While living in New York, he traveled to Dallas, Texas to help organize The State Fair of Texas Annual Exhibitions which he continued doing so for several years. He returned to San Antonio in 1909 and painted only what he loved and wanted to paint. The bigness of Texas with it's characteristic subjects; Hillsides covered with bluebonnets & dusty roads,  which captured the atmospheric conditions of misty mornings in the bluebonnets with the full character of the twisting native oak trees & headwaters of different streams, where he found the colors wonderful in varying lights. These are the subjects Julian Onderdonk loved and longed to put on canvas. Julian  refused to follow his fathers vocation as a teacher, but always gave his time and influence to art interests and activities at the San Antonio Art League.

             Julian found acclaim and financial success in 1911 with his bluebonnet paintings developing his skill with fine impressionist colors. Many of these bluebonnet canvases were painted en-plein-aire and true to nature.

            In 1913 Julian was elected to the Salmagundi Club in New York City. In the same year two of Julian's paintings were accepted at the National Academy of Design for the Winter Exhibition 1913/1914 both south Texas scenes "Springtime Afternoon" & "Road Through the Quarry". Following his exhibit in New York, he exhibited at the San Antonio Art League and the Fred Hummert Gallery in San Antonio. In 1917 he was elected to the Allied Artists of America. Towards the end of his life, his 30x40 canvases were fetching $750 which was a large sum of money in 1922.

          Mrs. Steinfeldt described the art of Julian Onderdonk's subjects as follows; "Julian not only painted the Texas landscape, he interpreted its many moods. In his own words he remarked "I think the greatest artist is he who can in the simplest manner touch the whole heart of nature and mankind". He painted much more than the hills, the trees and the broad expansive field of wildflowers. He captured the essence of nature in the morning mists, the heat of the shimmering sun on distant clouds, the haze on hills in the twilight, the soft rain, the powdery dust of a caliche road and the silvery mysticism  of a moonlit night".

            Julian was a master of foregrounds as once stated by Frank Reaugh (1860-1945) which is a very good and correct observation. His work in foregrounds dramatically changed studying under William Merritt Chase at his Summer school at Shinnecock, NY. Students there were taught to start working from the foreground working back to the sky line.

          Julian Onderdonk died October 27, 1922, after a brief illness. At the time of his death, five of his pictures were on the way to New York to be exhibited at the Howard Young Galleries. He also had orders ahead for $20,000  worth of work. (A tremendous amount for 1922).   

         Mrs. Drought, President of the San Antonio Art League was in New York shortly after his death and saw his picture "Dawn of the Hills" exhibited at The National Academy of Design.

        Julian's friend, Edward G. Eisenlohr stated "We of the Texas art colony  had a personal pride in Julian's achievement. Aside from his own personal work, he has contributed much toward the development of interest in art, through his promoting the State Fair exhibits for a number of years. Julian had not reached the height of his ability when death carried him away.

          Onderdonk was a member of Allied Artists of America; The Salmagundi Club of New York; San Antonio Art League and the National Academy of Design.

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