Past Exhibitions

Collection in Context: William Wendt, Conserving the Landscape

Exhibition Through April 25, 2004

During the early twentieth century, William Wendt (1865-1946) was one of Southern California’s most important landscape painters. Upon emigrating as a teenager from Germany in the middle 19th century, Wendt settled in Chicago and briefly attended the Art Institute of Chicago. Wendt moved to Laguna Beach, with his wife, Julia, also an accomplished artist, in 1906. He rarely depicted homes or towns in his works, and focused instead on the beauty of the state’s unique geography, from the verdant canyons of Orange County to the amber terrain of Owens Valley.

Though largely a self taught artist, Wendt became the “painter laureate” of 20th century California art. Finding spiritual solace in the unspoiled landscape, much like the Hudson River School painter, Albert Bierstadt, Wendt examined nature’s moods and changing seasons through works such as Spring in the Canyon. Wendt’s limited palette and blocky application of paint has aligned him to a distinctly California style of Impressionism, closely echoing an Arts and Crafts aesthetic more than French Impressionism. The flatness of Japanese prints, very popular at the time, is echoed in the compressed spatial depth of Wendt’s composition. As a plein air painter of the California landscape, he did not usually rely on field sketches to complete his final paintings but for larger compositions, like Spring in the Canyon, Wendt employed these sketches as references to help complete the canvas in his home studio. 


Willam Wendt, Ana hills

William Wendt, Kosa