Julian Onderdonk

A San Antonio Impressionist

San Antonio River (1886) by Robert Jenkins OnderdonkSan Antonio Museum of Art

His father, Robert Jenkins Onderdonk

One of San Antonio's earliest professional artists, Robert Onderdonk moved to Texas in 1879 after attending art school in New York. He became one of the city's most influential artists, for his teaching and his images documenting the character and charm of his adopted city.

San Antonio River (1886) by Robert Jenkins OnderdonkSan Antonio Museum of Art

San Antonio River

The play of light on water as well as the surrounding foliage and buildings, animates this quiet scene of a house on the banks of the San Antonio River on West Commerce Street downtown (today, in the heart of the city's Riverwalk).

A Friendly Call (1895) by William Merritt ChaseNational Gallery of Art, Washington DC

His teacher, William Merritt Chase

While growing up in San Antonio, Julian Onderdonk became committed to the idea of working outdoors, directly from nature. His training with William Merritt Chase, the legendary American Impressionist, at the Shinnecock Summer School in 1901 solidified that commitment and desire.

Fall Scene near Sisterdale (1909) by Julian OnderdonkSan Antonio Museum of Art

His Home State, Texas

Scholars argue whether this painting represents Sisterdale, a small town 13 miles north of Boerne, Texas, in the Hill Country; or whether it was painted on Long Island during Julian Onderdonk's residency there.

The composition is indebted to the influence of William Merritt Chase, particularly in relation to Onderdonk's incorporation of two small girls picking flowers in the foreground. 

Chase frequently deployed his daughters in a similar fashion in his scenes of his family playing in the dunes of Shinnecock, Long Island.

Onderdonk adopted this motif, most especially in his early paintings. Regardless of where it was created, the painting enjoyed success at the Texas State Fair in Dallas soon after it was made, helping to solidify Onderdonk's popularity in his native state.

Near San Antonio (ca. 1918) by Julian OnderdonkSan Antonio Museum of Art

Near San Antonio

The bluebonnet, the state flower of Texas, inspired San Antonian Julian Onderdonk. He explored the changing effects of atmosphere, weather, and light by studying fields of this wildflower, which blooms briefly in springtime.

Both during his brief lifetime and continuing to present day, Onderdonk inspired a host of other artists to emulate his explorations of the Hill Country and the South Texas landscape.

Near San Antonio (ca. 1918) by Julian OnderdonkSan Antonio Museum of Art

See it in San Antonio

Work from Robert and Julian Onderdonk can be found at SAMA. Visit the American Galleries on the first floor of the East Tower and the Texas Gallery on the third floor of the East Tower.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps