The artistry of California plein-air painter, William Wendt (1865-1946) takes my breath away. His palette, brush strokes and views transport one back to a quieter vision of California. His time was the hey day of the Craftsman Era, where each brush stroke was a taken with care.
Wanting to know more about this artist, I had my assistant, Jessica Lee Sanders research and assemble information and samples of his work. I am delighted to share this brief history lesson and selection of paintings courtesy of Edenhurst Gallery, William Wendt Gallery, The Athenaeum, and the Laguna Art Museum.
During the late 19th century, plein-air painting of the California landscape was on the rise. Plein-air is a 19th-century style of painting outdoors, or with a strong sense of the open air, that became a central feature of Impressionism. Its origin is from French en plein air ‘in the open air’.
Born in Germany in 1880, Wendt immigrated to Chicago, where is studied briefly at the Chicago Art Institute. Mostly self-taught. he worked as a commercial artist, making several trips to Southern California between 1894 and 1906.
He and his wife, sculptress, Julia Bracken, made the decision to move to California in 1906. While living in California, Wendt worked mainly outside, “en plain air”, and often ventured into the wilderness. He regarded nature as a place for silence and contemplation. His work consisted of canvases filled with trees, rolling hills, farmhouses, and blue skies. Much of Wendt’s earlier work was termed “tranquil and lyrical”, while his later work showed more texture with the bold brushstrokes.
n 1918, Wendt founded the Laguna Beach Art Association, now known as the Laguna Art Museum. His works are in many collections, including the Union Club in Seattle, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pasadena Art Institute, and the Springville, Utah Museum.
I hope this article has inspired you to learn more about this fine plein-air painter and visit the galleries that display his beautiful work.
Linda Wehrli, Instructor/Founder, Pastimes for a Lifetime, Inc.