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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Onderdonk, Travis, Utter and other Texas artists for Heritage Auction

Two paintings by Texas Impressionist Julian Onderdonk anchor the Texas Art side of Heritage Auctions’ Dec. 16 Signature® Art of the American West &Texas Auction, an auction featuring a host of the best names in Texas art, taking place live at Heritage’s Design District Annex at 1518 Slocum Street and online at

“Onderdonk’s work has become particularly sought-after in recent years and it’s easy to see why,” said Atlee Phillips, Consignment Director for Texas Art at Heritage Auctions. “With the two paintings we’re offering, In Flag Mountain(1914) and Flying Shadows (1910), we have two diverse and beautiful paintings that demonstrate the artist’s versatility while at the same time being undeniably Onderdonk.”

With In Flag Mountain – on the West Prong of the Medina River (S.W. Texas), Onderdonk has given us something somewhat different then his “typical” impressionistic paintings. His usual lyrical style, so soft and dreamy, gives way to a painting with a rough surface, an abstract style and a wonderful rich texture rarely associated with Onderdonk’s masterful brushwork. The painting is estimated at $50,000-$70,000.

Flying Shadows is a beautiful gem Julian Onderdonk painted in 1910 with saturated jewel-tones in his more recognizable soft impressionistic style. Shadows of clouds can be seen moving across the vast landscape, creating flying shadows that sweep over the Texas Hill Country. The contrast of vivid colors is particularly striking, all in all a wonderful example of Onderdonk’s brilliant technique and sense of color. It is estimated at $40,000-$60,000.

The greats of Texas Modernism are well-represented in the auction, with Olin Travis’s Ex Slave providing the key highlights. A truly powerful painting, Ex Slave us not the kind of portrait commission that Travis, and artists like him, often painted to assure a steady income. Here, using a realistic style and accentuating the sad gaze and gnarled, weather beaten face of his subject, Travis has created an image capable of eliciting a strong emotional response. It carries a pre-auction estimate of $6,000-$8,000.

“This portrait serves as documentation of an important chapter of the American experience in Texas,” said Phillips. “In depicting this former slave, intentionally or not, Travis invokes the long history of oppression, violence, poverty and racism towards African-Americans and in the process creates an important piece of Texas cultural and art history.”

Collectors of Texas Modernism will also be particularly interested in two paintings Heritage Auctions is offering from Ft. Worth painter Bror Utter. In Still-life with Roses, Apples, and Plums, circa 1950 (estimated at $6,000-$9,000), Utter presents a unique amalgamation of varying modernist influences, especially those of Matisse and Cézanne. Despite these references to French modernists, Utter’s distinctive style is still recognizable in the fine draftsmanship and interesting use of color. With Mission Series, 1965, Utter presents one of the best examples of his Mexican mission scenes, a favorite subject of the painter after his frequent travels of the 1960s. It is estimated at $6,000-$9,000.

Bent Figure with Ghosts/KKK, 1965, by African-American artist John Biggers is a powerful and emotional work of the highest quality and is sure to attract competitive bidding from collectors of Texas Art as well as collectors of African-American Art and African-Americana. In the painting a tormented figure, bent over and wracked with pain, anguish, and fear, is being aggressively haunted by the ghostly figures behind him, obviously images of the Ku Klux Klan. It is estimated at $4,000-$6,000.

“This subject is hard today,” said Phillips, “so it’s difficult to imagine how it would have been received by the general public at the time it was made in 1965. Despite this, Biggers’ mentor, Victor Lowenfield – himself a Holocaust survivor – encouraged him to explore such a profoundly difficult, but important, subject. The beauty and formal brilliance of the work makes it even more moving.”

Further highlights from the Texas Art portion of the auction include, but are not limited to:

Dawson Dawson-Watson, Country Landscape, 1927: Oil on Canvas. Estimate: $20,000-$30,000.

Jerry Bywaters, The Giralda and the Cathedral: Oil on Canvas. Estimate: $10,000-$20,000.

Forest Bess, Untitled (Sailboats): Oil on Canvas. Estimate: $10,000-$15,000.

Michael Etie, West Texas Sunset: Oil on Board. Estimate: $5,000-$8,000.

Heritage Auctions, headed by Steve Ivy, Jim Halperin and Greg Rohan, is the world’s third largest auction house, with annual sales more than $600 million, and 475,000+ registered online bidder members. For more information about Heritage Auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, please visit