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Laguna Art Museum Snags New William Wendt Painting

The untitled 1933 plein air work was donated. The location of the scene Wendt depicted is unknown.

Story submitted by the Laguna Art Museum:

Laguna Art Museum recently acquired a significant landscape painting by famed early Laguna Beach artist William Wendt. A gift to the museum from Robert and Shirley Foster from the estate of Janet W. Wood, the painting is untitled, oil on canvas, and measures 16 x 20 inches. It is signed by Wendt and dated 1933. The painting is in good condition, and it will be cleaned at the Balboa Art Conservation Center. As soon as the cleaning is completed, the painting with be on display among the museum’s permanent highlights.

"In 1933, the Laguna Beach papers reported that Wendt was painting in El Toro and in Trabuco Canyon,” said Laguna Art Museum’s Curator of Early California Art Janet Blake. “This painting was likely done en plein air at one of those campsites. There are no labels or notations on the stretcher bars of the painting, so the exact location where it was painted will remain a mystery.”

“William Wendt was a major figure among the remarkable group of artists centered on Laguna Beach in the early twentieth century,” said Laguna Art Museum’s Executive Director Malcolm Warner. “In this charming landscape, the strip of road gives us a sense of the modern, human presence in the artist’s beloved Southern California scenery. Although Wendt generally lamented the incursions of modernity, here he seems to accept the idea of the natural and the manmade co-existing. It’s a very welcome addition to the small but choice group of paintings that represent him in the museum’s collection.” Other Wendt paintings in the museum’s California-focused permanent collection include Landscape, 1912; Spring in the Canyon, 1926; and Owens River Valley, 1929. All of the paintings are oil on canvas.

William Wendt is highly regarded as one of the most important artists to live and work in Laguna Beach in the early twentieth century. He immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1880, settling in Chicago, where he began his painting career. A self-taught painter, Wendt visited Southern California in the late 1890s accompanied by his friend, artist Gardner Symons. The two painted in Malibu and visited Laguna Beach where a few years later, Symons bought property and built a home. In 1906, Wendt and his wife, sculptor Julia Bracken, moved to Los Angeles. Wendt had also acquired property in Laguna Beach, and several years later he built a second home and studio there. Wendt was a founding member of the Laguna Beach Art Association in 1918 (now Laguna Art Museum) and one of the leaders of the organization. His paintings of Southern California serve as documentation of the beauty of an unspoiled landscape of a bygone era.

In 2008, Laguna Art Museum presented In Nature’s Temple: The Life and Art of William Wendt, which was the first full-scale retrospective on the artist’s work, curated by Will South. To date it is one of the museum’s highest attended exhibitions, and the accompanying catalogue (which was co-published with The Irvine Museum) is one of its best-selling publications.

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