William Wendt (1865-1946) Biography

William Wendt (1865-1946)

 

William Wendt is known as one of the most prominent "California Impressionists" of the early 20th century.

Wendt was born in Bentzen, Germany and emigrated to Chicago at age fifteen.  Although mostly self-taught, he did take some classes at the Chicago Art Institute and later found work as a commercial artist.  In 1893, Wendt took second prize in a Chicago Art Club exhibition which encouraged him to take up easel painting full time.

Wendt make his first trip to California in 1894, looking for new landscapes to paint.  He returned in 1896 with George Gardner Symons, who became a life-long friend.  In 1898, the two traveled to England where they visited museums and painted along the coast of Cornwall.  Wendt later had an exhibition in Chicago of paintings from these trips.  After several more visits to Europe and California, Wendt and his bride, the sculptor Julia Bracken, decided to settle permanently in California in 1906.  The Wendts purchased the home and studio of Marion and Elmer Wachtel in Los Angeles, but moved to Laguna Beach in 1912.  Wendt spent the rest of his life in Laguna and became one of the most respected and influential members of the growing art colony.

Wendt was a founding member of the California Art Club and served two terms as its president.  Through the Club, through the success of his work, and through his commanding personality he contributed enormously to the popularity of impressionist painting on the West Coast.  He worked in a very bold style with broad strokes and a palette that favored pure color over strictly naturalistic effects.  He was highly prolific and exhibited his work widely.  Wendt was honored with election as an associate member of the National Academy of Design in 1912.  His works can now be found in major American art museums.