Bluebonnets at Twilight, near San Antonio – Robert Julian Onderdonk, 1919-1920
True blue plants have a natural allure due to their rarity. Landscapes dominated by these blue plants are even rarer, yet because we have Bluebells in the UK, are also somewhat familiar. There are relatively few plants that bear truly blue flowers – Gentian, Lupin, Monkshood, Grape hyacinth and African lily are a few that come to mind – with more found in the purple and lavender areas of the spectrum. It’s still a colour range that exists far less in nature than others – Professor David Lee, in his book Nature’s Palette: This Science of Plant Colour, puts it at around 10% of all flowering plants.
Well-known paintings of predominately blue plant landscapes also seem elusive. You will find numerous artworks with blue hints, tints or hues, but not many renderings of the real thing. Artist Robert Julian Onderdonk (1882 – 1922) almost single-handedly makes up for it. He painted blue flower after blue flower, creating a whole series of impressionistic artworks depicting the Texas state flower, the Bluebonnet, en masse. The Bluebonnet is a collective name to refer to a number of species of lupin found in South West America, with the Texas Bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis), endemic to the region, perhaps the most well-known.
There’s something compelling about an artist who paints the same thing over and over again, giving due attention to the same but variable subject – which plants most definitely are. Claude Monet’s Water Lilies series of 250ish artworks painted in his garden at Giverny is perhaps the most well-known example of such dedication.
Bluebonnets can be found all across Texas, with different species concentrations in different areas, but to experience the beauty of Onderdonk’s landscape head for San Antonio and the Highland Lakes region just west of Austin between late February and May. For more detailed information and blooming times see the Facebook page Texas Bluebonnet Sightings.
Bluebonnet Scene, 1921
Field of Texas Bluebonnets and Prickly Pear Cacti
Path Through a Field of Bluebonnets
Fields of Bluebonnets, 1920
Field of bluebonnets
Bluebonnet Field Early Morning San Antonio, Texas, 1914
Field of bluebonnets under cloudy sky
Bluebonnet Field, 1912