HomeCultureFamous Southern Painters You’ve Never Heard Of

Famous Southern Painters You’ve Never Heard Of

The American South is a region steeped in tradition and history. This collection of states had birthed some of the most beautiful architecture, cuisine and entertainment. The art world hasn’t been left behind either, and many famous painters have come from this region since the 1800s. So, it’s worth taking a look at the sometimes forgotten masterpieces that Southern artists have brought to the table.

Charles Marion Russell

When Shadows Hint Death

Born in 1864 in Missouri, Charles Marion Russell was known for painting scenes of the American Old West. Russell worked under the Realism art movement, creating works that mirrored real life.

Having created more than 2,000 paintings during his career, Russell not only painted cowboys but lived like one as well. Having worked as a rancher, Russell knew well the world he depicted in painting on canvas. In total, Russell created about 4,000 works during his career. These included oil paintings, as well as watercolors, drawings and sculptures.

If you’re looking to buy oil paintings by this artist, consider reproductions of some of his classics like When Shadows Hint Death or When the Plains Were His.

Frederick Arthur Bridgman

The Siesta

This Tuskegee, Alabama, native was born in the mid-19th century to good means. The son of a physician, Bridgman would go on to become a world-famous painter in the Orientalist movement.

Bridgman was a frequent traveler and loved to collect souvenirs from the places he visited. These included artistic objects, costumes, architectural pieces and more, which often made appearances in his paintings.

Some of the most notable pieces by this artist include The Siesta and An Interesting Game. Bridgman is interesting because he’s one of the American artists that brings his Southern charm and blends it with worldwide experience. This has given us a library of work with a wide range of topics and subjects that introduces us to the flexibility of Bridgman and lets us view a trip around the world through his eyes.

David Hunter Strother

Mill Boys Racing

David Hunter Strother is unique because he wasn’t necessarily dedicated to painting alone. Strother was born in Martinsburg, Berkeley County, Virginia, which, today, is a part of West Virginia. He held plenty of titles throughout his lifetime, including politician, military officer, diplomat and journalist.

Artistically, he was mostly known for being an illustrator for magazines. During this time, he was more popularly known by his pen name “Porte Crayon,” which is French for pencil holder or crayon holder.

Needless to say, he was an avid pencil artist. He had a 10-part series called “The Mountains” in which he captured the landscape of West Virginia, and he dedicated much of his life to furthering his home state.

As for paintings, he did paint a portrait of Elizabeth Hunter Strother in 1837. Elizabeth, originally named Elizabeth Pendleton Hunter, was his mother. His family’s ties to Southern life were even deeper on his mother’s side, where relatives were among the first families of Virginia.

Julian Onderdonk


Julian Onderdonk was born in San Antonio, Texas, and lived there until he was 19 years old. At this point, a generous neighbor helped him go to New York to study with the American Impressionist William Merritt Chase, who Onderdonk’s father had also studied with.

Onderdonk spent the summer of 1901 studying with Chase and even tried to live in New York for a time as an en plein air artist. By 1909, though, he returned to San Antonio, where he created the main body of his work. He focused mostly on bluebonnet landscapes and captured the natural beauty Texas had to offer until his death in 1922.

He has gotten plenty of recognition since his death as well. The Dallas Museum of Art has several entire rooms dedicated to his work. Perhaps an even higher honor, Pres. George W. Bush chose to use the artist’s work to decorate the Oval Office during his two terms. Even Onderdonk’s art studio is memorialized as part of the Witte Museum in San Antonio.

William Henry Huddle

Old Slave

William Henry Huddle was born in Wytheville, Virginia, and served in the Confederate States Army before he retired to Texas with his family. His artistic training was split between trips to Munich, Germany, and a training period attending the National Academy of Design in New York City.

The work of Huddle varied, and he painted multiple topics. For one, he was known for his portraits. In fact, the Texas State Legislature called on Huddle to paint official portraits for state executives. One of his most famous pieces was The Surrender of Santa Anna. This depicted the surrender of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna during the Mexican-American War that ended in 1848. Today, the original copy of this painting is on display in the Texas State Capitol in Austin.

George Caleb Bingham

The County Election

George Caleb Bingham later earned the moniker of “the Missouri Artist,” but his life started in Augusta County, Virginia. As a child, he didn’t have any artistic training, but he supposedly drew on anything within reach, including fenceposts, walls and barn sides. The cause that pulled him out of Virginia was one that caused a lot of strife and relocation: the Civil War.

Once he got to Missouri, Bingham started to create many of his masterpieces. He had several different muses but one of his most famous series was “Election.” This included three paintings: The County Election, Stump Speaking and The Verdict of the People. These offered a distinct and interesting point of view on the local political process. Bingham also did other observational pieces such as Fur Traders Descending the Missouri.

Consider ordering works by these artists instead of your standard Van Gogh reproduction and add some historic Southern art to the walls of your home or office.

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