Laguna Art Museum has acquired a fourth painting to add to its collection by William Wendt. He’s one of the best-known early 20th Century artists who lived in Laguna Beach.
Janet Blake, the art museum’s early California art curator, said Wendt’s landscape of greens and browns fading into blues and grays was likely done en plein air along the foothills of the Cleveland National Forest – probably in the area of Trabuco Canyon.
“Unfortunately there were no marks on the back," she said. "Sometimes, on the backs of these old paintings, you’ll find a gallery label or he may have written something, but there are no marks. But because we do have evidence of where he was painting in 1933, then that’s what I think we’re looking at.”
Blake said the demand for Wendt’s paintings has increased, so it’s rare to obtain one as a gift. She estimates that the painting could go for as much as $60,000 at an auction. The landscape's previous owner was Janet Wood of Montebello. When she died, she left the painting to her friends, Robert and Shirley Foster - who donated it to the museum.
Early in his career, Wendt painted with short brush strokes. As he matured he began using blocky brush strokes that lent more structure to his landscapes. Blake said the images in his paintings evolved through the years.
“Thirty years ago, most of what you saw by William Wendt was just pristine landscape with absolutely no evidence of man in the picture,” she said. “And it’s only been in the last maybe 10 or 15 years that more and more works have come out and we see that he does occasionally put in evidence of man’s presence, especially in Laguna Beach.”