Known as "the dean of Western artists" and "painter laureate of California," William Wendt was widely considered to be the best landscape painter working in Los Angeles during the first quarter of the twentieth century. He immigrated to Chicago in 1880, and, except for attending evening classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he was self-taught. After winning the second Yerkes Prize of the Chicago Society of Artists exhibition at the Art Institute in 1893, he decided to begin his career as a professional artist. He soon achieved success as a landscape painter, winning a bronze medal at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901, a silver medal at the Universal Exposition in Saint Louis in 1904, and other awards. In 1894 Wendt began traveling to California for extended visits. He spent about a year painting in England, 1898-99, and made a second trip to England and the Continent in 1903. In 1906 he married the sculptor Julia Bracken (1871-1942) of Chicago and they settled permanently in Los Angeles. A joint exhibition of their work was held in Chicago at the Art Institute in 1909.
Wendt quickly assumed leadership among Southern California artists, helping in 1909 to organize the California Art Club and serving as its president from 1911 to 1917; he was appointed president emeritus in 1930. He was elected an associate member of the National Academy of Design in 1912. Wendt built a second studio in Laguna Beach in 1918 and moved there about 1923. He was given a solo exhibition at Stendahl Art Galleries, Los Angeles, in 1926, near the end of what was his most productive period. He made his last trip to Europe, primarily to Bavaria, in 1926. Stendahl Art Galleries and the Los Angeles Museum organized retrospective exhibitions of his work in 1938 and 1939 respectively. He painted little after the late thirties.
Charles Francis Browne, "Some Recent Landscapes by William Wendt," Brush and Pencil 6 (September 1900): 257-63 § Mabel Urmy Seares, "William Wendt" American Magazine of Art 7 (April 1916): 232-35 § William Wendt and His Work (Los Angeles: Stendahl Art Galleries, 1926), with essays by Antony Anderson, Fred S. Hogue, Alma May Cook, and Arthur Millier, list of honors, published in conjunction with a solo exhibition at the Stendahl Art Galleries § Laguna Beach (Calif.) Museum of Art, William Wendt, 1865-1946, exh. cat., 1977, with text by Nancy Dustin Wall Moure § Long Beach, California State University, University Art Museum, In Praise of Nature: The Landscapes of William Wendt, exh. cat., 1989, eds. Constance W. Glenn and Sue Taylor-Winter, with introduction by Glenn, essays by Diane M. Roe, Lynn 0’ Brien, and Patricia Colby-Hanks, chronology by Colby-Hanks, bibliography.