Today's Hours
Museum: Closed
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Today's Hours
Museum: Closed
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Sonntag, William Louis
Collection: American Collection
Specialty: Paintings
Throughout most of his life, William Louis Sonntag painted in the manner
of the Hudson River School, though late in his career, he made a switch to
more Barbizon-oriented paintings. Through born in Pennsylvania, Sonntag
grew up in Cincinnati as one of the rare members of the Hudson River
School who was actually what in the early nineteenth century might be
termed a "Westerner". While he decided relatively early in his life that
he wished to be a professional artist, his father did not support his goal
and apprenticed him first to a carpenter, then to an architect. When
Sonntag refused to embrace either career, his father surrendered, though
not to the point of procuring art lessons. Therefore largely self-taught,
Sonntag nonetheless quickly became a popular landscape painter,
specializing in the grandiose scenic views that were popularized by Thomas
Cole and his followers. By the early 1850s, he was receiving commissions
from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to commemorate scenes along the
company's route.

In 1853, he began exhibiting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and,
having made the acquaintance of some other artists, arranged to accompany
them on his first trip to Europe along with his bride of two years. The
Sonntags spent most of their time in Italy where William repeatedly
painted scenes of the Italian countryside. When they returned to America,
the Sonntags settled in New York where William joined a number of artistic
organizations including the National Academy of Design.

Extremely prolific, Sonntag was lucky that his critical reputation,
probably because of his switch to the Barbizon style, never suffered the
fall from grace experienced by most of the other Hudson River School
artists. In the last years of his life, he had paintings exhibited in New
York, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Paris .

Everl Adair, Director of Research and Rare Collections