Artists & Designers

Robert Jenkins Onderdonk (1853-1917)

Robert Jenkins Onderdonk was born in Catonsville, Maryland, in 1852. In the early 1870s, Onderdonk attended the College of Saint James in Maryland where his father was headmaster. He then moved to New York to begin his artistic training at the National Academy of Design. In 1878 Onderdonk began taking classes at the new Art Students League where his instructors included Walter Shirlaw, James Carroll Beckwith, and William Merritt Chase. In 1879 Onderdonk traveled to Texas at the invitation of his boyhood friends, Walter and William Negley, who established themselves in the ranching business. He settled in San Antonio, hoping that the money he earned as a portrait painter would finance future artistic training in Europe.

Onderdonk married painter Emily Gould in 1881, and they had three children over the following five years. In 1889, Onderdonk left his family in San Antonio and moved to Dallas where he hoped to face less competition as an artist and teacher. He led classes in drawing and painting at a studio on Elm Street and then began teaching art at Mrs. Dickinson's School. The following year his family joined him in Dallas. In 1893, Onderdonk began teaching at the new Dallas Art Students League. After the death of his father-in-law in 1895, the Onderdonks returned to San Antonio. He spent 1898-1899 in St. Louis, Missouri, painting china for Johannes Schumacher, the manufacturer of "X-Rays China Colors." Onderdonk disliked this work, especially since Schumacher required him to paint western scenes. Once again, Onderdonk returned to San Antonio and resumed painting and teaching. He remained there until his death in 1917.

Adapted from

William Keyse Rudolph, Julian Onderdonk: American Impressionist, Dallas Museum of Art Yale University Press New Haven and London catalogue 2008 pp. 144-149.

Web Resources

Onderdonk, Robert Jenkins, Texas State Historical Association Biography
Read more about Robert Jenkins Onderdonk on the Handbook of Texas Online (published by the Texas State Historical Association).