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American Impressionism Series: William Wendt

An American Original Impressionist, by Way of Germany

Monday, March 28, 2016

Vibrant Coast, Oil on canvas, by William Wendt
(above) Photo Credit:

If ever there was a Leading Man of California Impressionism, it was William Wendt. 

Born in Bentzen, Germany, William Wendt (1865-1946) became a force to be reckoned with in the American art world by the time he headed up the California Art Club in 1911. Already an established and well known Impressionist, Wendt championed art and painting, especially California landscapes. The power of Nature ran deep, philosophically, in Wendt’s blood:

Portrait of William Wendt, American ImpressionistThe earth is young again. The peace, the harmony that pervades all, gives a Sabbath-like air to the day, to the environment. One feels that he is on holy ground, in Nature's temple.

The warm green of the grass, sprinkled with flowers of many hues, is a carpet whereon we walk with noiseless tread.

The perfume of the flowers and of the bay tree are wafted on high, like incense. The birds sing sweet songs of praise to their Creator. In the tops of the trees, the soughing of the wind is like the hushed prayers of the multitude in some vast cathedral. Here the heart of man becomes impressionable. Here, away from conflicting creeds and sects, away from the soul-destroying hurly-burly of life, it feels that the world is beautiful; that man is his brother; that God is good.

William Wendt
Photo Credit: Laguna Art Museum

So deep was Wendt’s commitment to advancing excellent art in California, he was known at the time as the “dean of Southern California artists.” Wendt passed away in 1946 in Laguna Beach, CA, site of many paintings and his personal studio. 

Other Impressionists in the Los Angeles area at the time included Jack Gage Stark (1882-1950), Sydney Dale Shaw (1879-1946), Detlef Sammann (1857-1938), and Helena Dunlap (1876-1955).

Southern California Coast, Oil on Canvas, by George Gardner Symons

(above) Southern California Coast, Oil on Canvas, by George Gardner Symons
 Photo Credit:

Longtime friend and fellow Impressionist George Gardner Symons also had a studio in Laguna Beach. Symons worked exclusively with landscapes, and was versatile in both coastlines and east coast snowy scenes. Aside from differences in color (Wendt tended more towards greens and browns), their mode of capturing the moment was quite similar. 

Golden Morrow, or Poppy Field Landscape, Oil on Canvas, by Granville Redmond, 1931

(above) Golden Morrow, or Poppy Field Landscape, Oil on Canvas, by Granville Redmond, 1931
 Photo Credit: 
Laguna Art Museum

Another “original” California Impressionist from the same era as Wendt was Granville Redmond. Although Redmond traveled in somewhat different social circles, he was a member of Wendt’s California Art Club and the Laguna Beach Art Association. Known for his coastal paintings as well as depictions of poppies and other flowers, his delicate style and obvious love for California landscapes made him a favorite then and now. 

Torrey Vista, Oil on Canvas, by Erin Hanson

(above) Torrey Vista, oil on canvas, by Erin Hanson.

Contemporary Impressionist Erin Hanson displays the same passion for landscapes as Wendt, though unbounded by the California coast. Hanson’s prolific brushwork also reaches far into the US National Parks and the Northwest. 

Advancing oil painting styles and keeping up the tradition of California Impressionism, Hanson’s work was influenced by Wendt and many of his oil painting compatriots. In addition to creating a new Impressionistic style, termed Open-Impressionism, Hanson’s love and appreciation for Nature’s “touch of God” in all landscapes is more than apparent. 

Daybreak, Oil on Canvas, by Erin Hanson

(above) Daybreak, oil on canvas, by Erin Hanson

Common to all these California Impressionists is the vision of beauty they see in the natural surroundings many Californians take for granted. Fortunately, from Wendt to Hanson, and others, artists with vision have captured slices of heaven on earth, carefully preserved in oil on canvas for posterity. 


Erin Hanson ArtistERIN HANSON has been painting in oils since she was 8 years old. As a young artist, she worked at a mural studio creating 40-foot-tall paintings on canvas, while selling art commissions on the side. After getting a degree in Bioengineering from UC Berkeley, Erin became a rock climber at Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. Inspired by the colorful scenery she was climbing, she decided to paint one painting every week for the rest of her life. She has stuck to that decision ever since, becoming one of the most prolific artists in history. Erin Hanson's style is known as "Open Impressionism" and is now taught in art schools worldwide. With thousands of collectors eagerly anticipating her work and millions of followers online, Hanson has become an iconic, driving force in the rebirth of contemporary impressionism.

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