• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2072

    California, Western and American Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture

    29 October 2008, Beverly Hills

  • Lot 15

    William Wendt (1865-1946)

    Cup of Gold

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    William Wendt (1865-1946)
    Cup of Gold
    signed and dated 'W M. Wendt.1901' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm.)


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    William Wendt was drawn to landscape painting early in his career and would remain dedicated to this genre for over three decades. Primarily self-taught, he found inspiration en plein air, developing his skill and unique style directly from nature and within the landscape itself. In 1896, Wendt traveled to California seeking new inspiration and by the time he had permanently settled there six years later, he was already heralded as one of the region's most successful and innovative landscape painters. Wendt was deeply moved by California's unspoiled natural setting and sought to evoke the transcendental qualities inspired by its rolling meadows, groves of trees and blossoming flowers, bathed in a mystical light. For Wendt, nature was a manifestation of God's work, and he, a faithful translator.

    An accomplished practitioner of the impressionist technique, Wendt embraced the grand scale and inspiring presence of the California landscape. He once commented "I like plenty of elbow room when I attack a canvas. Nature isn't a two-by-four affair and I don't think pictures ought to be." Moreover, if Wendt chose to include the evidence of man in his compositions, it was often set at a distance to enable the natural world to overwhelm and prevail the physical and metaphoric space.

    Cup of Gold is an exceptional example of Wendt's early impressionistic style. The short, quick brushstrokes give the scene a softness and purity of touch that is characteristic of his early work that displays both a mastery of Tonalism and exploration of Impressionism. In Cup of Gold, the foreground is emblazoned with bold orange poppy blossoms that dramatically blanket the meadow. These glowing flowers are juxtaposed against the deep greens of the grass, the purple and blue shadows of the distant trees and hazy mountains, all of which intensify the brilliance of the flowers. The bold diagonal lines of the overall composition lead the viewer into the scene to the distant mountain peak and upwards into the the soft glow of the California sky.

    Wendt remained committed to painting his surrounding landscape throughout his career. Never tiring of the many moods and impressions of nature, he painted them with conviction and with a deep sense of spirituality. "The sincerity and power of his work brought him a host of disciples...He is the dean of Southen California artists..." (The Official Art Exhibition of the California Pacific International Exhibition, exhibition catalogue, 1935)

    Provenance

    Mrs. Myron Learned, Omaha, Nebraska.
    Gift from the above to Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska, 1945.
    Sotheby's, New York, 21 September 1994, lot 71.
    The Redfern Gallery, Laguna Beach, California.
    Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1995.


    Literature

    The Art Institute of Chicago, Catalogue of An Exhibition of Works by Chicago Artists, exhibition catalogue, Chicago, Illinois, 1902, p. 29, #251.
    J.A. Walker, Documents on the Life and Art of William Wendt, 1865-1946, Big Pine, California, 1992, pp. 85, 140.
    W.H. Gerdts and G.R. Martin, A Painter's Paradise: Artists and the California Landscape, exhibition catalogue, Santa Barbara, California, 1996, p. 80, illustrated.
    R. Spencer, "Sharing California," Santa Barbara Magazine, Fall 1996, p. 50, illustrated.
    W.H. Gerdts and W. South, California Impressionism, New York, 1998, p. 139, illustrated.


    Exhibited

    Chicago, Illinois, The Art Institute of Chicago, Sixth Annual Exhibition of Works by Artists of Chicago & Vicinity, February 4-March 2, 1902, #251.
    Santa Barbara, California, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, A Painter's Paradise: Artists and the California Landscape, November 29, 1996-February 16, 1997.