• by Rich Reitzell

Jonathan Art Foundation Adds Major Painting by William Wendt

The path to acquiring the latest acquisition of the growing art collection of the Jonathan Art Foundation began on an evening in late March in Carmel, California. A group of ardent art collectors traveled north for a weekend visiting a number of private collections, shared camaraderie, and great food. The first evening, one of the top art galleries specializing in early California art hosted a reception for the group which included two long-time supporters of the JAF. The gallery owner had installed his best paintings, and among those was a work by

William Wendt, A Homestead Hidden. Over the course of the reception, they found their eyes continuing to be drawn back again and again to the Wendt painting on the back wall. On their return to Los Angeles, the painting was brought to the attention of the JAF acquisition team, and an extensive review process began that included consulting multiple experts, obtaining a condition and provenance report, a personal viewing by most of the JAF board, and an in-depth analysis of current market pricing and several decades of Wendt auction records. Finally in June, with a near unanimous approval, the Jonathan Art Foundation closed the deal on their latest purchase.


The acquisition is a major addition to the collection. William Wendt was one of the most prominent and respected artists of the early twentieth century plein air Impressionists. Known as the “Dean of Southern California”, he was born in 1865 in Bentzen, Germany, before migrating to Chicago in 1880. While he briefly studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, he was mostly self-taught and worked as a commercial artist. In the period from 1894-1908 he traveled to Los Angeles several times with his friend and fellow artist Gardner Symons. Wendt was enthralled by the beauty of the Southern California landscape, and in 1906 he and his recent bride, sculptor Julia Bracken moved to Los Angeles settling in a studio on Sichel Street. On arrival he made an immediate impact of the Los Angeles art scene. He exhibited widely, receiving universal praise and accolades from both critics and fellow artists within the burgeoning art community. In 1911, he co-founded the California Art Club (which still thrives today) serving several terms as president. In 1912, indicative of his reputation, he was recognized and elected as an Associate in the prestigious National Academy of Design. In 1913, in response to the growing population, the Wendts built a home in Laguna Beach, and in 1919 they moved there permanently until his death in 1945.


Wendt was celebrated for his reverential approach to the beauty of the California landscape. His paintings were best known for his sweeping vistas which were frequently characterized by a monochromatic palette – frequently either the bright greens of springtime and summer or the warm golds of fall. The newly acquired painting A Homestead Hidden is an intriguing and fascinating example of the power of his art. Decidingly more complex than many of his works, there is a lot to look at and absorb in this painting. A number of masses and colors grab your attention – the ruggedness of the hillside, the splashes and varying color of foliage including greens, yellows, and oranges, and the heavily textured wash in the foreground. True to Wendt’s emphasis on the splendor of nature, the presence of man as noted in the title “A Homestead Hidden” is almost a footnote with only a teasing glimpse of the painting’s subject. Exquisitely framed by the trees on the left, the shadowed greens at the far bottom, and the sweeping branch and the late summer sky at the top the composition draw you in yet keep your eye moving. With many compositions your eye is drawn toward a specific part of the painting, while this scene keeps your focus dancing as you absorb a full array of Wendt’s masculine, yet deft brushwork and Impressionist style. Finally, an additional and fun fact that adds significance is that among its exhibition history it was displayed at 1939 World’s Fair in New York.


We invite you to join us when we unveil our proud new acquisition at the Jonathan Town Club on Thursday, September 29 at 6:00 p.m. For more information and to make reservations, please email us at inquiries@jonathanart.org.