|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Known as the "Bluebonnet Painter", Robert Julian Onderdonk was a Texan
who spent his summer's in New York City and the remainder of the year
in San Antonio. He earned his title from the many wildflower
paintings he did of the flowering fields near his hometown. |
was the son and art student of artist Robert Jenkins Onderdonk and the
brother of Eleanor Onderdonk, also a prominent Texas painter, sculptor,
and art administrator. In 1901, when he was nineteen, he went to New
York and enrolled at the Art Students League and became a student of
Kenyon Cox, Robert Henri, and Frank DuMond. He also studied with
William Merritt Chase at Chase's summer school at Shinnecock on Long
Island and the New York School of Art, and Chase had a continuing
influence on his work.
Ever in need of money to support his love
of painting, Onderdonk took a temporary position in 1906 with the
Dallas State Fair Association to put on an art exhibit, and three years
later he took a job with them that lasted until until his premature
death in 1922 at age forty.
Onderdonk married in 1902, and when
he returned to Texas in 1909, the New York art critics had become aware
of him. Onderdonk would maintain a foothold in the art world
there because his employment by the Dallas State Fair Association
required him to return on a yearly basis to New York City.
though the artist had never been a member, the National Academy of
Design in New York City took the rather extraordinary step, upon his
death, of exhibiting Onderdonk's last painting, "Dawn in the Hills". A
fund-raising campaign in San Antonio purchased the painting for the
city's art museum.
Robert Julian Onderdonk was a member of the
Allied Artists of America, Salmagundi Club and San Antonio Art League.
His paintings are in the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Fort Worth Art
Association, Museum of Fine Arts of Houston, San Antonio Museum
Association and Stark Museum of Art, Orange, Texas
David Michael Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
John and David Powers, Texas Painters, Sculptors and Graphic Artists
|Biography from Rainone Galleries, Inc.:|
|Julian Onderdonk, the first of Robert and Emily Onderdonk’s talented
children, was born in San Antonio in 1882. All of the Onderdonk
children---Julian, Eleanor, and Latrobe---exhibited early signs of
artistic talent. Even though Eleanor was a very competent
portrait, landscape and still-life painter, and later in life, a
curator of art at the Witte Museum, it was Julian who became the most
well-known Onderdonk. |
His father and mentor taught him the
rudiments of art and stressed the importance of drawing at a early
age. Like the Old Masters, the young boy learned to draw before
he was allowed to pick up the paints. The drawings he did in the
1880s and 90s were described by critics as being done by an
accomplished artist far beyond his years.
At the age of ten,
he won second place for a watercolor he exhibited in the 1892 Dallas
Fair. In 1898, he presented a fine pen and ink drawing to his
best boyhood friend. Soon after that he presented the family an
unusual large colorful painting for their dining room. But as the
sales of his works increased, he would have no further need to give
From 1898 to 1899, Julian attended West Texas Military Academy, where he was the editor of their magazine, Bugle Notes.
His military training definitely prepared him for his adventure to New
York City in January 1901. He studied at the Art Students League,
under Kenyon Cox and took classes under Frank DuMond and Robert
Henri. Under the tutelage of William Merritt Chase at his
Shinnecock Summer School of Art at Southampton, Long Island, the young
artist was encouraged, criticized, and helped to develop his own
In 1902, Julian married Gertrude Shipman,
his next door neighbor in New York. He struggled to support his
new family, producing paintings that sold for little money. Sometimes
he did restoration and often painted what he called ‘pot boilers’ for
extra income, which were signed under the assumed names Roberto Vasquez
and Tunison. When his paintings began to sell, he stopped this
type of work.
The art school that Julian started with fellow
American artist Guy du Bois in 1904 was short lived. When asked
by the Dallas Fair Association to organize the art exhibit in 1906 (a
project he continued until his death), Julian and Gertrude made the
decision to return to Texas. He began to paint historic
structures like the Alamo and started taking trips west of his home in
San Antonio to paint on ranches.
During this time, Julian
molded together the tonalist style he learned from his father and the
progressive Impressionist style from New York. His first
panoramic Texas landscapes of bluebonnet fields, lifting haze, cactus,
live oaks with Spanish moss hanging and powerful Texas skies began to
During World War I, Julian used his talents to draw
large range finding targets for the Army, that were used by machine gun
crews and rifle practice. The 1920 Dallas Fair was successful
despite difficulties due to a shipping strike that kept many of the New
York artist’s paintings from arriving. In 1922, Julian was
flooded with requests for his paintings from all parts of the
country. Although he was behind in his work and even lost some
commissions, he made time for the San Antonio Art Leagues projects and
shows. They made him an honorary life member. Despite ill
health, Julian also set up the historic 1922 Dallas Fair.
Onderdonk died, probably from appendicitis, on October 27, 1922, at the
age of forty. Texas artist Rolla Taylor paid tribute in
Onderdonk’s obituary in the San Antonio Express, when he said:
“no artist in the South was equal to Onderdonk and that through his
recognition in the highest artistic circles of America, Texas and San
Antonio have become recognized for their wealth of material for the
Written by Peter C. Rainone, as published in American Art Review, June 2008
|Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, IV:|
|Julian Onderdonk was the son of the important Texas landscapist, Robert Onderdonk. He was the father’s pupil at age 16. Sponsored by a Texas patron, he studied at the Art Students League in New York when he was 19, the pupil of Kenyon Cox, Frank DuMond, and Robert Henri. He also studied with William Merritt Chase on Long Island. In 1902, having lost his Texas patron because he married, he asked $18 for 12 paintings at a Fifth Avenue dealer in New York City, and was glad to accept $14 for the lot.|
In 1909, Julian Onderdonk returned to the family studio in San Antonio. He painted “the bigness of Texas, dusty roads, the blooming cactus or hillsides of blue lupine, rolling gulf clouds, aged liveoaks, and the gray brush in winter. His style changed somewhat in his later years.”
Onderdonk was heavy-set with dark eyes and hair, quiet and serious, “a strong personality.” When he died at 40, “five of his pictures were on the way to New York. He also had order ahead for $20,000 of work.” He was known as the painter of the bluebonnet flowers of Texas.
SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST, Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing
|Biography from Whistle Pik Galleries:|
|Julian Onderdonk (1882 – 1922)|
Julian Onderdonk was a native of San Antonio and son of Robert Jenkins Onderdonk. In 1901, at the age of nineteen, he moved to New York City and attended several art schools. He then studied plein-aire painting with William Merritt Chase at his summer school in Shinecock, New York.
He returned to Texas in 1909 and continued to enjoy considerable success during his lifetime. He became best known for his paintings of bluebonnets, but he also loved to depict the Texas Hill Country in all its incarnations. Unfortunately, he suffered an early death at the age of forty.
In 2008, the Dallas Museum of Art held an exhibition entitled "Bluebonnets and Beyond: Julian Onderdonk, American Impressionist".
|** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.|
Julian Onderdonk is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Impressionists Pre 1940