Heritage, 2011, Volume 1 Page: 10
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T here were no artists pres-
ent to witness the violent
fall of the Alamo on March
6, 1836, and the decisive
Battle of San Jacinto six weeks later.
Visually, these events were reported
only in crude illustrations appearing
in eastern publications. The Alamo in
ruins, however, provided powerful in-
spiration to several early Texas artists,
most notably artist-soldier Seth Eastman,
who was briefly stationed in Texas with
the U.S. Army in 1848-49 (see image on
page 12, middle). Not until 1875 was
the last morning of the Alamo siege,
in all its fury, recreated in an emotion-
ally charged scene by historical painter
Henry Arthur McArdle. Theodore
Gentilz followed up in 1885 with his
own crisply painted version of the fi-
nal Mexican assault. Before his death,
McArdle loaned two large-scale his-
torical paintings, Dawn at the Alamo
(1905) and The Battle of San Jacinto
(1895-98) for exhibition in the Texas
State Capitol, where they were eventually
acquired and remain today as companions
to William Henry Huddle's The Surren-
der of Santa Anna, painted in 1886.
Generally speaking, artists working
during the time of the Texas Republic
and the early days of Statehood pro-
duced works that were documentary
in nature, reflecting the artists' sur-
roundings and observations. Richard
Petri and his brother-in-law, Hermann
Lungkwitz, both educated in Dresden,
Germany, were among the most skilled.
The two men, along with other family
members, arrived in New Braunfels in
Lewis Oscar Griffith, The Old and the New (Dallas), 1926. Etching. Judy and Stephen Alton
1851 and settled in Fredericksburg.
Once there, Petri produced vigorous,
sympathetic sketches in pencil and wa-
tercolor of Penateka Comanches trad-
ing in the area, along with numerous
portrait sketches of his own family. He
also captured many scenes of rural life
in this German community that would
have otherwise gone unrecorded.
Hermann Lungkwitz was instinc-
tively drawn to the natural beauty of
the environs around Fredericksburg
and, working primarily in oil paints,
became Texas' first convincing inter-
preter of the Hill Country landscape
(see image on page 12, bottom). He also
specialized in architectural views and
produced some of the state's finest pre-
Civil War vistas of San Antonio. Fol-
lowing the unexpected death of Rich-
ard Petri in 1857, Lungkwitz spent
more and more time in San Antonio,
where he partnered with another up-
and-coming immigrant artist, Carl G.
von Iwonski, to learn an emerging spe-
cialty called photography.
Both before and after the Civil War,
immigration provided Texas' continu-
ing infusion of talented artists, and San
Antonio was the magnet that attracted
them. One of the city's most extensive
artistic legacies was created by French
emigre Theodore Gentilz (seefirstpara-
graph), who first came to Texas in 1844
and lived and worked in Castroville as a
surveyor. He soon opted for life in San
Antonio, married in France in 1849,
and then returned to San Antonio to
teach art at St. Mary's College. His ca-
reer would last another 50 years, and dur-
ing that time Gentilz produced an aston-
ishing number of paintings and drawings
of indigenous Mexican citizenry in San
Antonio and Bexar County. Though un-
polished, he is considered one of Texas'
most historically accurate 19th-century
painters and, as an observer of his time,
perhaps the most important Texas art-
ist of that century.
Robert Jenkins Onderdonk arrived
in Texas about 1879, and except for a
five-year stint in Dallas in the 1890s,
adopted San Antonio as his permanent
home. Here he carved out an astound-
10 TEXASHERITAGE I Volume 1 2011
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2011, Volume 1, periodical, 2011; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254220/m1/10/: accessed March 30, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.