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William Wendt (1865-1946)

William Wendt was born in Bentzen, Germany on February 20, 1865. At fifteen years of age, sponsored by his uncle, Wendt immigrated to Chicago in 1880. With the exception of some evening classes at the Chicago Art Institute, Wendt never received any formal art training. In Chicago, he worked his way into a position as a staff artist in a commercial art shop. Wendt worked at the commercial art studio six days a week, and on his one day off, he would spend the day painting outdoors.

Painting formula pictures and display scenery for a living and outdoor easel landscapes for the love of it, he developed a competence and style which, by 1893, won him the Second Yerkes Prize of two hundred dollars at the Chicago Society of Artists Exhibition. It was enough money, he decided, to launch a full-time career as an easel painter. Wendt was a good friend of artist Gardner Symons in Chicago and made several trips to Southern California with him in 1896. The friends then traveled to England in 1899 and Wendt exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Nationale des Beaux Arts in France. On his return to America on November 1899, Wendt exhibited 46 paintings at the Chicago Art Institute.

After his marriage to sculptor Julia Bracken in 1906, the couple moved to Los Angeles and bought the studio home of Elmer and Marion Wachtel on Sichel Street. Wendt was a co-founder and first president of the California Art Club in 1911 and held the position for six years. In 1912 he was elected an Associate of the National Academy of Design in New York. In the same year, Wendt built a studio-home in Laguna Beach, which became a mecca for aspiring artists throughout Southern California.

Throughout the 1920's he painted prolifically, living in solitude in Laguna Beach while Julia lived and worked in Los Angeles. He painted with friends Symons, Puthuff, Payne and Borg, among others. A successful exhibition was launched at the Stendahl gallery in 1926 which brought together a large body of works by Wendt. The exhibition at the Stendahl gallery was also unique because a monograph of Wendt was also published. The monograph was one of six published monographs of Southern California artists before 1930. Wendt died in Laguna Beach on December 29, 1946. He is often referred to as the Dean of Southern California.

Member: American Federation of Arts; California Art Club (president); Chicago Society of Artists; Laguna Beach Art Association; National Arts Club; Society of Western Artists.

Exhibited: Chicago Society of Artists, Illinois, 1893; Paris Salon, France, 1899; St. Louis Museum, Missouri, 1900; Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, New York, 1901; Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis, Missouri, 1904; Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, 1904, 1909, 1911, 1913; San Francisco Exposition, 1915; Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Diego, 1915; California Art Club, 1916; Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science and Art, 1915, 1917, 1918, 1939; Hotel Green, Pasadena, 1917; Stendahl Galleries, Los Angeles, 1922, 1926, 1927, 1938; Pan-American Exhibition, Los Angeles, 1925; National Academy of Design, New York, 1926; Ebell Club, Los Angeles, 1928, 1930; California-Pacific International Exposition, 1935; Golden Gate International Exposition, San Francisco, 1939; Los Angeles Art Association, 1947.

Works held: Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio; Cliff Dwellers Club, Chicago, Illinois; Gardena High School; Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis, Indiana; Irvine Museum; Laguna Art Museum; Long Beach High School; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach; Pasadena Art Museum; Springville Museum of Art, Utah; Union Club, Seattle, Washinton.

Artists in California, 1786-1940, Edan Hughes
William Wendt: 1865-1946, Nancy Moure

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