Autumn Woods, Oil on canvas, ca. 1914
American artist William Wendt was born in 1865 in Bentzen, Germany, and in 1880, at the age of fifteen, immigrated to the United States with his family. In 1894 and again in 1896, Wendt traveled and painted with his friend George Gardner Symons, initially visiting England and California, and later traveling to the American East Coast, Germany, and France. He married sculptor Julia Bracken in 1906, and the couple subsequently moved to California, where Wendt traveled to the hard to reach areas of the countryside in search of inspiration. An esteemed artist in his day, William Wendt became the first president of the California Art Club in 1911. He exhibited and sold his works successfully for thirty years at major galleries in California, Chicago, Boston, and New York.
Stylistically, art historians have categorized Wendt as a third (and final) generation American Romantic Landscape painter. His canvases, graced with trees, rolling hills, blue skies and farmhouses, embrace the ideas of the French Barbizon painters, but adopt an even less formal approach. By painting in the outdoors, recording their experiences, yet not embellishing on nature as with the previous generations, this third generation of Romantic Landscape painters, who worked during the earliest years of the 20th century, created unique works of art that display bold and broad brushstrokes, and exhibit compositions dominated by rich green and brown hues. The depictions of calm surroundings combined with agitated and visible brushwork in works like Autumn Woods would ultimately evolve into other early-20th-century painting styles; most notably leading to the establishment of the Ashcan School.