William Louis Sonntag was born near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1822. In the 1840s Sonntag moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to study art, and he was associated with the Cincinnati Academy of Fine Art. His idealized paintings of American wilderness and visionary paintings of imagined European ruins were commercially successful and he traveled twice to Europe in the 1850s to improve his skills. Sonntag settled in New York City and joined the National Academy of Design, where he exhibited his works for forty years. His mature works identify him with the Hudson River school of landscape painters. A romantic and a naturalistic painter of his surroundings, Sonntag also created idealized paintings of Roman ruins, recalling his European trips of earlier years.
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