Posts Tagged 'Julian Onderdonk'

A Founding Mother

While using the archives for a small research project (more on that in a future post), I was reminded of one of the Dallas Art Association’s (DAA) founding members, Elizabeth Patterson Kiest (Mrs. Edwin J. Kiest). Mrs. Kiest attended the first meeting of the group of art supporters that formed the DAA on January 19, 1903 and she served as DAA Treasurer from its inception to her death in 1917, a century ago this year.

Bronze plaque in honor of Elizabeth Patterson Kiest for her long service as founder and Treasurer of the Dallas Art Association.

The Kiest Memorial Fund was established in her honor, with a plaster cast of Winged Victory as the first purchase. (The piece is no longer in the collection.)

An interior view of the Free Public Art Gallery space in the Textile and Fine Arts Building, with the plaster cast of Winged Victory in the upper left.

Beginning in 1932 the Kiest Memorial Fund was used to fund a purchase prize for the annual Dallas Allied Arts exhibitions, from which works by major Dallas artists were acquired for the collection including Jerry Bywaters, Otis Dozier, De Forrest Judd, Everett Spruce, Charles T. Bowling, Allie Tennant, Perry Nichols, Donald S. Vogel, William Lester, and Octavio Medellin.

In addition to the DAA, Mrs. Kiest was involved in a number of civic and women’s clubs, the foremost being the Dallas Shakespeare Club and the Matheon Club. The Dallas Shakespeare Club would later donate Road to the Hills by Julian Onderdonk to the Museum in memory of Mrs. Kiest.

Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Dallas Shakespeare Club in memory of Elizabeth Patterson Kiest


Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art. 

Bluebonnets in Bloom

With spring upon us, we can anticipate the sprouting of bluebonnets along Texas roads and highways. Bluebonnets can also be found in the DMA’s permanent collection. One of the best places to look is in the work of Julian Onderdonk, a San Antonio–born artist. Onderdonk is recognized for his portrayal of his home state’s landscape, in particular the Texas State Flower, the bluebonnet. Onderdonk so perfected the portrayal of bluebonnets that to this day his name is immediately linked to scenes of these blue and violet flowers carpeting expansive landscapes.

Onkerdonk in action. Image source

After studying in New York at the Art Students League and William Merritt Chase’s Shinnecock Summer School, Onderdonk returned to Texas in 1909. Back in his home state, he found that he could combine the techniques he learned in New York with his environment in Texas. The bluebonnets were the perfect subject in which to manifest his interests. Appearing initially as subtle parts of his compositions, they dominated the artist’s work by the mid-1910s.

Field of Bluebonnets

Julian Onderdonk, Untitled (Field of Bluebonnets), 1918–20, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Margaret M. Ferris, 1990.153

Although the bluebonnet became the state flower in 1901 and was represented by other artists prior to Onderdonk’s embracing them as a subject, his depictions of the flower increased their popularity and distinctive connection to the state of Texas. The bluebonnets also brought fame to the artist while defining Texas art as a regional school that paralleled other schools of regionalist art in America. The appeal of these paintings was twofold; on one hand, they played into Texas pride by giving importance to the state flower, and on the other hand, they highlighted Onderdonk’s painterly talents and ability to render nature.

Blue Bonnets

Bluebonnets in bloom.

For Onderdonk, these flowers were more than simply bluebonnets. They allowed him to find a balance between what he saw and a subject he knew well: in other words, a blending of his East Coast training and his connection to the Hill Country of Texas. Painted around 1918-1920, Untitled (Field of Bluebonnets) is an example of Onderdonk’s dedication to the flower. Onderdonk learned from Chase the importance of painting outdoors because it allowed a closer observation of the light and shadows. Here Onderdonk responded to Chase’s emphasis on painting en plein air (outdoors before the motif) and capturing the changing effects of light and shadow in a field covered with the vividly colored blossoms. He paints the bluebonnets in rich blues and greens, making each bloom in the foreground individuated and then progressing into broad strokes of color to portray the pool of flowers.

Francesca Soriano is the McDermott Intern for American Art at the DMA. 

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Are you ready for a picnic, fireworks, and to “remember the Alamo”?  It’s time to celebrate Texas Independence Day!

One hundred and seventy-five years ago, on March 2, 1836, Texas declared its independence from Mexico when Sam Houston and fifty-seven other men formed the Republic of Texas by signing the Texas Declaration of Independence. The Lone Star State’s triumphant struggle for independence ended a few days later at the siege of the Alamo. Among the approximately 250 brave men who died there were William R. Travis, Jim Bowie, and Davy Crockett.

A sketch of this legendary battle by Robert Jenkins Onderdonk (father of the Texas impressionist painter Julian Onderdonk) is part of the DMA’s collections. This preliminary drawing depicts Crockett in the center wearing his trademark coonskin cap. He swings a flintlock overhead, about to club advancing Mexicans who have broken through the building’s south gate.

Robert Jenkins Onderdonk, American 1852-1917, "Sketch for 'Fall of the Alamo,'" , c. 1901, Oil and pencil on paper board, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Eleanor Onderdonk, 1960.185

Davy Crockett was a celebrated 19th-century American folk hero, frontiersman, soldier, and politician. He moved from his native Tennessee to serve in the Texas revolution and died at the Battle of the Alamo. A notable work in the DMA’s collections is William Henry Huddle’s portrait of the courageous young hero who made the ultimate sacrifice for the young Texas Republic. Best known for painting scenes from the Texas war of independence, Huddle also completed a series of portraits of Texas governors. In the DMA’s painting, Huddle depicts the hero wearing his hunting clothes with his trusty rifle by his side. Although historians debate many of the details surrounding Crockett’s death, they all agree that he died on March 6, 1836, on the last day of the siege of the Alamo.

William Henry Huddle, American, 1847-1892, "Davy Crockett," 1889, Oil on masonite, Dallas Museum of Art, The Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle Collection, gift of the Hoblitzelle Foundation, 1987.47

The DMA owns some lovely images of this treasured building. One by Plano, Texas, artist Frank Klepper is quite different from Onderdonk’s combative scene. By depicting the building on a tranquil, starry night, Klepper turns the battleground into a hallowed shrine that is the pride of every Texan.

Klepper, The Alamo

Frank Klepper, American, 1890-1952, "The Alamo," early 1930s, Oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the History Club, 1933.7

Martha MacLeod is the European and American Art Curatorial Administrative Assistant at the Dallas Museum of Art.


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