About the Work of Art:

Julian Onderdonk (1882–1922)
A Cloudy Day, Bluebonnets near San Antonio, Texas, 1918
Oil on canvas
Purchase with funds from the Ruth Carter Stevenson Acquisitions Endowment, in honor of Lady Bird Johnson
Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
1998.10

 

Julian Onderdonk (1882–1922), A Cloudy Day, Bluebonnets near San Antonio, Texas, 1918, oil on canvas, purchase with funds from the Ruth Carter Stevenson Acquisition Endowment, in honor of Lady Bird Johnson, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, 1998.10

 

 

 

 

 

Each spring the Texas Hill Country bursts forth with the vibrant colors of wildflowers. Variations of blue, red, yellow, and white blanket the landscape. Julian Onderdonk’s painting A Cloudy Day, Bluebonnets near San Antonio, Texas captures the color of bluebonnets in a Hill Country field. In San Antonio and its environs, Onderdonk found the subjects he loved to paint—hills, live oak trees, gray brush in winter, dusty roads, deep blue skies, and fields of spring flowers. His scenes of bluebonnets won the artist his greatest popularity, though he disliked being designated as “the bluebonnet painter.”

Coming decades after the introduction of impressionism in France, A Cloudy Day, Bluebonnets near San Antonio, Texas reflects that style, which in essence is painting outdoors to capture the sunlight’s fleeting effects by using broken brush strokes of saturated color. The first American artists to use the impressionist style did so in the late nineteenth century. Among them was Onderdonk’s teacher, William Merritt Chase. One of the most influential painters of the time, Chase had students who traveled from all over the United States to study with him. Like Onderdonk, these students often returned home and painted the familiar landscape. Significantly, in the western United States, economic and living conditions at the time were such that a local market developed for artists like Onderdonk. Not unexpectedly, regional subjects were popular.

Onderdonk was especially adept at portraying the breadth and scope of the Texas landscape under varying light conditions, as in this painting of a cloudy day. By 1918, the year in which he painted A Cloudy Day, Bluebonnets near San Antonio, Texas, Onderdonk’s reputation had grown throughout the state, where his works were widely collected. He was able to devote his time to travel around central Texas, where he filled his sketchbooks and executed many paintings.

Lady Bird Johnson, wife of the thirty-sixth president of the United States, brought attention to the value of wildflower conservation in the United States. In 1982 she led the establishment of a national wildflower research center on the Colorado River southeast of Austin by contributing sixty acres of land and $125,000 to wildflower research. This painting was purchased for the Amon Carter Museum in honor of Lady Bird Johnson. The success of the Texas wildflower planting program prompted federal legislation of a similar nature known as the National Wildflower Landscaping Act of 1985. The bill’s intention was to encourage the use of native wildflowers in highway landscaping throughout the United States.

In 1901 the Texas Legislature chose bluebonnets over the cactus bloom and cotton boll as its state flower. The flower was given its name because it resembled the bonnets worn by pioneer women.



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