Julian Onderdonk,
Julian Onderdonk, "A Field of Bluebonnets, San Antonio," 1921; Image credits: Heritage Auctions, HA.com

The painting was loaded into a trailer along with other donations and was headed to Goodwill, where it would have sat until someone noticed its charismatic beauty. Bluebonnet paintings — a mainstay of American West artists for a century — are not hard to come by, but this one was different.

The owner, a woman on her way to a West Coast retirement, whose family had packed her things, called out for it. “It’s too pretty to surrender.” It had been a gift to her, sent to Illinois from an extended family member in Texas, to commemorate her birth in 1922; she had looked upon it all her life, and she wanted it on the wall of her last home. The painting was retrieved from the packed trailer, and the woman continued to enjoy the painting in her final years. Then, her Washington-based daughter fondly displayed it in her own dining room. No one in the family knew a thing about the artist.

That is, until recently, when the daughter and her son did some digging and realized that the work was an original by “the father of Texas painting” — Julian Onderdonk himself — and that this painting was a particularly stellar example from the acclaimed artist in his absolute prime. Onderdonk, in fact, invented the entire category of bluebonnet painting, and no one has topped his oeuvre when it comes to capturing the state flower’s presence on the Texas landscape. This work, “A Field of Bluebonnets,” San Antonio, painted in 1921, comes to Heritage and is one highlight of its June 29, 2024, Texas Art Signature® Auction.

“It was a family heirloom all these years,” says the original owner’s grandson. “But it was decoration. We hadn’t considered researching it. And now, it should go to someone who will genuinely appreciate it.”

Julian Onderdonk, "Blue Bonnets on Grey Day, North of San Antonio, Texas," 1916
Julian Onderdonk, “Blue Bonnets on Grey Day, North of San Antonio, Texas,” 1916

That Onderdonk gem, replete with the artist’s hallmark extended vista, atmospheric haze, and densely packed fields of bluebonnets, is joined in the auction by another triumph from the famed Texas Impressionist: his “Blue Bonnets on Grey Day,” North of San Antonio, Texas, from 1916. In this intimate masterpiece, Onderdonk has situated the perspective from about halfway up a gentle slope. The sky is restive with gathering clouds, and individual flowers in the foreground glow in the overcast light. As your eye moves down the hill into the distance the color disperses into Onderdonk’s ethereal soft purples, blues, and grays. Like the painting mentioned above, it presents the artist at the height of his power.

Frank Reaugh, "On Peace River"
Frank Reaugh, “On Peace River”

This auction, tightly curated and yet stacked with Texas wonders, showcases the region’s artists at their best, whether the work is a century old or merely a decade or two, and proves the breathtaking range of their visions. From Frank Reaugh to David Bates, from Porfirio Salinas and Fred Darge to Nancy Lamb and Robyn O’Neil, the event is made up of works that inspire collectors of all types.

Preview the auction at fineart.ha.com.


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