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        Any springtime visitor to the Texas Hill Country is familiar with the Texas Bluebonnet, the official state flower of Texas. Early each spring, in the months of March and April, the hills and plains of the hill country are carpeted with blooming fields of blue lupin, which were nicknamed “bluebonnets” after the bonnets that pioneer girls once wore. These beautiful flowers naturally became a favorite subject for the Early Texas artists who painted in the region in the early years of the 20th century. While it was the Texas-born painter Robert Julian Onderdonk (1880-1920) who is first credited with popularizing bluebonnets as an artistic subject, in the 1920s and 1930s, many other painters developed a reputation for painting the blue lupin as well as other Texas wildflowers.

          On this educational web site, we will explore the lives and paintings of five of the finest Early Texas artists, each of whom developed a reputation for painting bluebonnets and other Texas wildflowers – Julian Onderdonk, Jose Arpa, Dawson Dawson-Watson, Robert W. Wood and Porfirio Salinas. In the 1920s, all of these painters were based in San Antonio, which was then the most populous Texas city as well as one with a notable colony of artists. While Onderdonk is usually credited with being the first and finest of the Texas wildflower painters, the other artists we are highlighting on this site, carried the tradition of Texas wildflower painting into the 1970s. While some viewers may recoil from Bluebonnets as a subject because of their treatment by thousands of lesser painters, we should always remember that in the hands of the right artist, wildflowers are truly of nature’s most sublime subjects.

Website copyright Jeffrey Morseburg 2010. No reproduction without written permission of the author.