1920 Julian Onderdonk Oil Painting

Value (2017) | $150,000 Retail
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GUEST:
My mother was the supervisor of all public school physical education in San Antonio, Texas, and she was there from 1917 to 1924. And she lived next door to a family of artists. And she had told me that the whole family painted. In particular, she was very fond of Julian's paintings. And it was, his name was Julian Onderdonk. Mother had a beau at that time that liked to give her pretty things. And one day he said, "Would you go next door and see what Julian has as far as his bluebonnet paintings? I have a friend that I'm going to give a painting to, and select something that you think this friend might like." So she went next door, and she said, "This painting was what I selected, but it was far from my favorite." (both laugh) "I thought it would be appropriate for anyone." So when he went to Julian's house to pick up the painting, he brought it to her and said, "This is for you."

APPRAISER:
Oh, how marvelous. She must have been very surprised.

GUEST:
Very surprised. But it was her dear possession, and she held it very close all her life.

APPRAISER:
Oh, that's wonderful. Did she say what kind of painting she liked, rather than...

GUEST:
No, she did not. But from then on, she liked this best of all.

APPRAISER:
Oh, good. Well, it's truly a beautiful example by him. And of course, he was from San Antonio, and he was born there in 1882. And yes, it's true, his father was a painter, Robert Onderdonk. And he taught Julian. And Julian had a sister named Eleanor, who also painted. In 1901, Julian moves up to New York to attend the Art Students League, which, of course, was a famous school there. And he studied with Robert Henri, a well-known teacher and artist. And later on, on Long Island, at Shinnecock, with William Merritt Chase, who had a summer school there. And Chase was one of the foremost American Impressionists.

GUEST:
My.

APPRAISER:
So Onderdonk had wonderful training from all three of his mentors. He married in 1902, and the couple struggled a fair amount, so he took on some restoration to help with funds. But he eventually comes back to San Antonio. He loved it there, and he was very inspired by the landscape. And he started out painting some of the historic scenes, like the Alamo, but he really became infatuated with bluebonnets, in particular. And he is in fact called “the Father of the Bluebonnet School,” which includes a whole group of painters, even into today, who paint this subject.

GUEST:
That's exciting to know.

APPRAISER:
The painting that you've brought in is of small scale, but he painted in a variety of sizes. And you can see that he's moved the flowers to the forefront. In some pieces, he'll have a roadway or a path, and the flowers are more receded. So it's really somewhat creative to have the flowers in the forefront. And then the luminous quality here is quite beautiful. Not all of his work has that pinkish sky, and I think that makes this particularly special. He dated it 1920, so that was during the period, of course, that your mother was there. And he actually died in 1922.

GUEST:
And she knew that, she told me that.

APPRAISER:
Oh, did she really?

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
And he was only 40 years old.

GUEST:
Oh, my goodness.

APPRAISER:
So he had... he could have had a wonderful career ahead, and he was very popular at the time he died, and actually had commissions from people in the Northeast and, of course, in Texas.

GUEST:
My goodness.

APPRAISER:
So he was very, very prominent. Now, has it always been in this frame?

GUEST:
There's never been any restoration. That's the original frame. And I've often wondered why there was glass over it, because most oils you see in museums... I have seen glass, but my friends who are artists say, "Oh, it shouldn't have glass on it." Well, I'm very thankful it did have glass on it, to have moved around in sooty old furnaced houses all these years in the Midwest, or it would really be discolored.

APPRAISER:
Well, that's right. It's in lovely condition. It does have some craquelure here in the center. It's not really anything to be terribly worried about. It's actually done on wood or panel-- it's not on canvas.

GUEST:
Oh, it is?

APPRAISER:
Now, have you ever had it valued?

GUEST:
Never, never. I have no idea.

APPRAISER:
No idea.

GUEST:
None-- it's not insured, it's nothing.

APPRAISER:
Well, paintings like this have always been popular, but they have been increasing in popularity in the last 20 years, and even in the last ten years. Some of the prices for his work has doubled in the last ten years. And a painting like this, if it were in a gallery-- and particularly maybe a gallery in Texas, or where there are clients, and mostly Texans buy the bluebonnet pictures-- a gallery would ask in the range of $125,000.

GUEST:
No!

APPRAISER:
Yes.

GUEST:
Oh, my God.

APPRAISER:
It's amazing. Most people would not... you know, who don't follow the scene wouldn't think that.

GUEST:
I'm not in the art scene, so it's totally an unbelievable shock.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Debra Force Fine Art, Inc.
Debra Force Fine Art, Inc.
New York, NY
Update (2017)
$150,000 Retail
Appraised value (2013)
$125,000 Retail
Event
Kansas City, MO (August 10, 2013)
Period
1920s
Material
Oil

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