William Wendt (1865-1946) When Fields Lie Fallow 40 x 50in overall: 52 x 62in (Painted circa 1921)

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Lot 50
William Wendt
When Fields Lie Fallow 40 x 50in overall: 52 x 62in
Sold for US$ 384,500 inc. premium

Lot Details
William Wendt (1865-1946)
When Fields Lie Fallow
signed and dated '·WILLIAM WENDT· 19[?]1-' (lower left)
oil on canvas
40 x 50in
overall: 52 x 62in
Painted circa 1921


  • Provenance
    The artist.
    with Petersen Galleries, Beverly Hills, California.
    Collection of James and Linda Ries, Southern California.
    Private collection, Southern California.

    Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, 34th Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, November 3 - December 11, 1921, no. 205.
    New York, National Academy of Design, 97th Annual Exhibition, March 25 - April 23 1922, no. 62.
    Saint Louis, City Art Museum, Seventeenth Annual Exhibition of Paintings by American Artists, September 15 - October 22, 1922, no. 114.
    (Possibly) San Antonio, Annual Exhibition of Paintings by American artists, Selected from the Centennial Exhibition of the National Academy of Design by the American Federation of Arts, Washington, D.C., in conjunction with an exhibition at the San Antonio Art League, March 16 - 30, 1926.
    Los Angeles, The California Art Club, Twenty-second Annual Exhibition, November 12 - December 31, 1931, no. 72.
    Sacramento, California State Fair, Annual Exhibition of Paintings, September 5 - 12, 1931, no. 210.
    Laguna Beach, Laguna Art Museum, Early Artists in Laguna Beach/The Impressionists, September 23 - November 5, 1986, no. 95.
    Oakland, Oakland Museum of California, A Time and Place: From the Ries Collection of California Painting, December 1, 1990 - March 3, 1991.
    Irvine, The Irvine Museum, Selections from the Irvine Museum, October 6, 2009 - February 13, 2010.
    Orange, Hilbert Museum of California Art, Golden Dreams: The Immigrant Vision of California, March 18 - September 23, 2017.

    The Art Institute of Chicago, Catalogue of the Thirty-Fourth Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, Chicago, 1921, n.p.
    National Academy of Design, Catalogue of the 97th Annual Exhibition, New York, 1922, p. 12.
    The California Art Club, Twenty-second Annual Exhibition [exh. cat.], November 12 - December 31, 1931.
    Janet Blake Dominik, Laguna Art Museum, Early Artists in Laguna Beach: The Impressionists, Laguna Beach, 1986, no. 95, p. 61 (full page color illustration).
    Harvey L. Jones, Philip E. Linhares, Paul C. Mills, Nancy Dustin Wall Moure, James and Linda Ries, A Time and Place: From the Ries Collection of California Painting, Oakland, 1990.
    John Alan Walker, Documents on the Life and Art of William Wendt (1865-1946), California's Painter Laureate of the Paysage moralisé, Big Sur, 1992, no. 797, p. 202.
    Will South, Jean Stern, and Janet Blake, In Nature's Temple, The Life and Art of William Wendt, Irvine, 2008, p. 17 (full page color illustration).

    William Wendt, now considered a giant among American Impressionists, is often referred to as The Dean of Southern California. His embrace of an impressionistic style can be dated to 1896-97 when he and his close friend George Gardner Symons painted together on the Malibu Rancho near Los Angeles. Both men were in the avant-garde of American painters at the time in that they were open to the Impressionist style that had begun in France in the mid 19th century. As it turns out, Southern California is a perfect location for translating the bright colors, atmospheric conditions, and shimmering light that were characteristic of the Impressionist style.

    Before 1915, Wendt worked with rather tentative, feathery brushstrokes, but thereafter he developed a bold, self-confident style which one critic termed masculine impressionism. This style melded impressionism with a distinctly modernist flair and he went on to produce landscapes with a signature broader, bold brush. Eugen Neuhaus wrote of Wendt: He sings of spring in its rich greens and more often of the joyful quality of summer in typical tawny browns, in decorative broad terms.

    Wendt painted exactly what he saw in nature with warm colors and outstanding effects of light and shadow. The tranquility, strength and sense of well-being of his work appealed to a wide audience. It had a sober sort of poetry about it, one critic wrote, like a fine, familiar hymn. His landscapes reveal as much about the grandeur of the West as the artist's own religious beliefs. Wendt believed in the theory of intelligent design and believed that God's creative purpose for the Earth is as evident in the natural world as in scripture. He often titled his major works with quotations from scripture.

    In 1926 the Los Angeles art critic Arthur Millier wrote of Wendt's work: "A man who can compose so surely and strongly has to know where he stands in relation to life, he must see the world as a moral creation, a thing of inevitable laws and definite structures". By 1931, William Wendt had fully established himself as a premier California plein air painter. That same year he exhibited 44 paintings in a one man show at the Stendahl Galleries in Los Angeles and an additional 46 paintings at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.

    In When Fields Lie Fallow, we see the artist's classic use of bright, broad and lively brushwork to convey the rolling hills of Southern California as they appeared before the artist in 1931. Wendt's composition is the structure on which his masterful impasto and color rest. The valley path swirls right through the center of the canvas, drawing the viewer's eye to the distant mountains below a bright sky with wispy clouds. The brushwork is fresh and colorful, implementing a variety of earth tones, while maintaining his signature use of green throughout the scene. It is well balanced and incorporates all the elements of a classic Western landscape. The growing Modernist influence of the day has been fully incorporated, as the green foliage and sky reveal a more chunky and abstract quality. When Fields Lie Fallow is one of Wendt's quintessential paintings where all of his signature elements meld flawlessly to create a work instantly identifiable as a William Wendt.

    Although this painting appears to be dated 1931, the exhibition history of the work indicates that it was most likely painted in 1921. Wendt famously dated some of his paintings years after they were completed. It is believed that he incorrectly dated some works in an effort to meet exhibition criteria, which often required artists to submit current and not past work.
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