Julian Onderdonk, son of Emily Wesley Rogers (Gould) and Robert Jenkins Onderdonk, was born in San Antonio, Texas. From early childhood he showed definite artistic talent, but his father, an artist familiar with the economic hardships such a career entailed, did not encourage him. When young Onderdonk was sixteen, however, his father permitted him to enter his art class and in 1901, with the aid of G. Bedell Moore, allowed him to go to New York to study. Among his instructors were Kenyon Cox, William Merritt Chase, and Frank Vincent DuMond. In June 1902 Onderdonk married Gertrude Shipman. They had two children. Onderdonk was soon experiencing the economic difficulties his father had anticipated. Although his ability was recognized, his earnings were small. In 1906 he took a salaried position organizing art exhibitions for the Dallas State Fair, a seasonal job he retained for a number of years. In 1909 Onderdonk returned to San Antonio and did his best work as an interpreter of life and scenes in his native locale. His most popular and marketable subjects were bluebonnet landscapes. His last paintings, Dawn in the Hills and Autumn Tapestry, were shown in the 1922 exhibition of the National Academy of Design in New York. Onderdonk was a member of the Salmagundi Club of New York, Allied Artists of America, and the San Antonio Art League. His works are presented in several Texas art museums as well as others over the nation. Among his best known paintings are: Dawn in the Hills (1922), Guadalupe River near Kerrville, Afternoon Lights, A Bluebonnet Field (1912), A Spring Morning, Springtime, A Texas Road, A Spring Day in Texas, and Frijolita.
Cecilia Steinfeldt, Art for History’s Sake: The Texas Collection of the Witte Museum (Austin: Texas State Historical Association for the Witte Museum of the San Antonio Museum Association, 1993). Cecilia Steinfeldt, The Onderdonks (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1976). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.