William Louis Sonntag (1822-1900), October in New Hampshire, Near the Foot of Mt. Washington, Oil on canvas, Dimensions: 20 ⅛ x 36 ⅛ inches, actual; 32 1/2 x 48 1/2 inches, framed in a gilt frame Signed lower left: Sonntag Inscribed on verso: October in N. H / Near the foot of / Mt. Washington
Provenance: H. C. Speed, North Edgecomb, Maine; to T. Gilbert Brouilette, Staten Island, New York; sold to Mrs. M. D. Johnston, San Marino, California, before 1980
Literature: Nancy Dustin Wall Moure, William Louis Sonntag: Artist of the Ideal 1822-1900 (Los Angeles: Goldfield Galleries, 1980), 120, no. 296.
By the early 1850s, William Louis Sonntag loomed large in the Cincinnati art world where he had begun his career. His activities were regularly covered in the local newspapers and journals, and local collectors acquired his colorful wilderness landscapes with such alacrity that one writer considered buying them a fad (1). As a critic recounted in 1858, after Sonntag had settled in New York, it was time for the artist to seek broader horizons:
In 1853, having amassed a considerable sum as the rewards of his incessant toil and study, and having about $5,000 in commissions to execute, he was persuaded to visit Europe for further study, and to obtain fine opportunities to fill his engagements. He went abroad, passing in a kind of flying visit of inspection over Europe, returning home after the brief absence of eight months; resolved to finish up his promised work and then again to repair to Italy, which he did in 1855 (2)
Sonntag was born in East Liberty, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Cincinnati. It is not known whether he trained with a local artist or was self-taught, but by the early 1850s he was the leading artist in Cincinnati. After trips to Europe in 1853-54 and 1855-56, Sonntag moved to New York City in 1857. He continued to travel to Europe in the 1860s and along the East Coast into the 1870s. His son, William Louis Sonntag, Jr., was also an artist.
Sonntag’s work can be found in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New-York Historical Society, and Brooklyn Museum, New York; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D. C.; Cincinnati Art Museum, and the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Footnotes- (1)- Nancy Dustin Wall Moure, William Louis Sonntag: Artist of the Ideal (Los Angeles: Goldfield Galleries, 1980), 19. (2)-Cosmopolitan Art Journal (December 1858), quoted in Moure, William Louis Sonntag, 11-12.
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