Born: Catonsville, Maryland 1852
Died: San Antonio, Texas 1917
Important Texas landscape and portrait painter, “the dean of Texas artists,” teacher.
Onderdonk was educated at the College of St. James in Maryland where his father was headmaster. At 20, he studied for two years at the National Academy of Design, under Wilmarth, then at the Art Students League under Shirlaw and Beckwith. He was the private pupil of A H Warren, than known as “the Corot of America,” and in 1878 concluded his art studies with Chase in his Munich period.
To earn funds for a European trip he never made, Onderdonk was persuaded to establish his studio in San Antonio in 1878. By 1881 he was married, living near Pedro Spring, taking the mule car to his studio in the city. He always carried with him a wood panel such as the top of a cigar box so he could paint small scenes. For his studio classes he charges $3 per month. He moved to Dallas in 1889, when offered $100 a month to teach. After his father-in-law died in 1896 he returned to San Antonio where he remained except for a trip to St. Louis in 1899 to try commercial painting on tile. Not ambitious, not robust, not careful in signing his paintings, he received commissions for hundreds of portraits without being able to earn a suitable living. Even his epic Davy Crockett’s Last Stand brought him only to say, “No one cares for historical pictures.”
Resource: SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing