In an essay for the Laguna Art Museum, Michael McManus referred to the wave of American painters who brought the influence of the French Impressionists to California in the early 20th Century as “Impressionism’s Indian Summer”.
Impressionism flowered late in California because it was largely a remote area before the turn of the century. The artists who came there early found a largely unspoiled and non-industrialized landscape, ideal for their endeavors. (For more on the timeline of California Impressionism, see my post on Guy Rose.)
Along with his friend George Gardner Symons, William Wendt was one of the Chicago area artists who came to California on the rail line that was completed in the late 1800’s.
Unlike Guy Rose, who was actually a student of Monet, Wendt only indulged in the all-out Impressionist dissolution of form in a flurry of paint strokes for a brief time. For most of his career, he painted in a more restrained palette, heavy in greens and browns, with broader strokes; to my eye more in keeping with some of the other American Impressionists like William Merrit Chase.
Though his colors were not as dazzling as those of some of his contemporaries, they were perfectly suited for his subjects. Wendt’s paintings carry a fresh, open feeling of the California countryside, rendered in the immediate style of paintings started, if not always finished, on location.