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 William Louis Sonntag Sr.  (1822 - 1900)

About: William Louis Sonntag Sr.
 

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Lived/Active: Ohio/New York      Known for: wilderness landscape painting, often allegorical

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Ad Code: 2
William Louis Sonntag
from Auction House Records.
MORNING IN THE ALLEGHENIES
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A native of East Liberty, Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh, William Sonntag was a landscape painter associated with the Hudson River School.  He is best remembered for his romantic depictions of the American wilderness and "idealized visions of classical Italian ruins" that "reflect the influence of the eighteenth-century neoclassical tradition of English literature and painting" (Zellman, 195).

He pursued his art career despite parental objections, and in the 1840s moved to Cincinnati where it is thought he studied at the Cincinnati Academy of Fine Arts under Godfrey Frankenstein.  From the early 1840s to the mid 1850s, he had a studio in Cincinnati and made numerous painting trips in the Ohio River Valley and into the mountains of West Virginia and Kentucky.  His style of grandeur, sweeping vistas, and dramatic renderings was much influenced by Thomas Cole.

In Cincinnati, his store-front gallery exhibition got the attention of a Baltimore and Ohio Railroad official who commissioned Sonntag to paint a series of landscapes along the B & O railroad route.  The artist combined his railroad painting trip with his honeymoon.

Sonntag's work gained popularity because of their positive reception in the Western Art Union shows.  In 1853, he first traveled to Europe, and returned in 1855 for a year's study in Florence, Italy.  Upon his return, he settled in New York City.

The latter part of his career was in New York from which he and his wife traveled frequently to New England and Italy.  He created panoramas with John C. Wolfe depicting Milton's Paradise Lost  and Paradise Regained, and he also traveled with Arthur Tait painting Catskill landscapes.

In 1861, he became an associate member of the National Academy of Design and exhibited his work regularly there for the next 40 years.

He died in New York City in 1900.

Sources include:
David Michael Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art

Biography from Pierce Galleries, Inc.:
Sonntag William Louis Sonntag (American, 1822-1900)

William Sonntag was one of the central figures of the Hudson River School. Primarily self-taught, his early landscapes were executed during painting excursions from Cincinnati to the Ohio River Valley and in Kentucky and West Virginia (1856 and 1859).

Born in East Liberty, Pennsylvania March 2, 1822, it is believed Sonntag studied for a short period with G. Frankenstein at the Cincinnati Academy of Fine Arts in the early 1840s. By the 1860s, he was famous for his views of sky, earth and water and he painted in New England and upper state New York.

Sonntag collaborated with John C. Wolfe on a large panorama of Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained before he traveled to Italy and lived in Florence from 1855-1856. After his return from Europe in 1857, he settled in New York City, exhibited extensively and became known for his romantic American and Italian landscapes. In 1869 his canvas The Blue Ridge from Near Luray was engraved by R. Hinshelwood and published in Ladies Repository. By the mid 1860s he was painting Mt. Adams, the Alleghenies, Shenandoah, Behtlehem (NH) and the Adirondacks, and at the end of his life he painted throughout the White Mountains

Sonntag was an Associate (1860) and Academician (1861) at the National Academy of Design and a member American Water Color Society, the Artists Fund Society and the American Art Union. His work is represented in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Corcoran Gallery of Art; Peabody Institute; Berkshire Museum; Brooklyn Museum; Chrysler Museum; the Fogg Museum; Harvard University; Vassar College Art Gallery; Cincinnati Art Museum and more.

He died in New York City in 1900 one of America’s most revered landscape painters.

Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:
William Louis Sonntag was born near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1822. In the 1840s Sonntag moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to study art, and he was associated with the Cincinnati Academy of Fine Art. His idealized paintings of American wilderness and visionary paintings of imagined European ruins were commercially successful and he traveled twice to Europe in the 1850s to improve his skills.

Sonntag settled in New York City and joined the National Academy of Design, where he exhibited his works for forty years. His mature works identify him with the Hudson River school of landscape painters. A romantic and a naturalistic painter of his surroundings, Sonntag also created idealized paintings of Roman ruins, recalling his European trips of earlier years.

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William Sonntag Sr. is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Hudson River School Painters



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