Bywaters Special Collections Artist Profile: Louise Heuser Wueste (Wüste)

This artist profile is the first on several artists whose works are featured in the exhibition, Texas Women Artists: Selections from Bywaters Special Collections, on the 2nd floor of Hamon Arts Library.

The earliest Texas drawing in Bywaters Special Collections is a pencil sketch of Elize Bunzen Wueste by Louise Heuser Wueste  (1805 – 1874).  Considered “…the first important woman artist to appear on the Texas scene,”  Wueste was born in Gummersbach, Germany in 1805.  In her youth she was surrounded by people who were interested in the arts.  Her father, Heinrich Daniel Theodor, was known as a shrewd merchant and chemist dealing in paints and indigo whereas her mother, Louise Heuser, had social ties to German royal families.  Louise studied portraiture at the Düsseldorf Academy during a time when the school was highly regarded as a center of study for detailed and realistic historical narrative painting.  Two of her instructors at the school were Friedrich Boser and Karl Ferdinand Sohn – both distinguished artists of the Academy.  In 1824 she married Dr. Peter Wilhelm Leopold Wueste and together they had three children – Emma, Adeline, and Daniel.  Family life interrupted her art interests for a time.  After her husband’s early death at age 37, Louise returned to her artwork and began teaching portraiture.  During the 1840s, her children had left Germany due to political turmoil and moved to Texas.  In 1857 [or 1859], Louise decided to make the arduous journey to Texas; she joined her daughter, Adeline, who was living in San Antonio with her husband. Not wanting to be a burden on her family, Louise returned to her art training and in 1860, opened a studio at No. 18 in the French Building in San Antonio.  Her advertisement for instruction in the San Antonio Herald (May 8, 1860) offered “the services of her art training in taking likenesses in oil or drawing, as well as to give lessons in every branch of art.”   While in San Antonio, Louise continued to paint formal portraits and sketch landscapes.

By 1863 Civil War hardships had caused Louise to join her son in Piedras Negras, Mexico, where he worked as a merchant.  She continued to paint and draw what she saw in her new surroundings, including the people and landscapes along the Rio Grande River.  Daniel eventually relocated to Eagle Pass, Texas and Louise returned to San Antonio to resume her art career.  During a trip to visit her son, Louise became ill and died on September 25, 1874. She left behind hundreds of paintings and drawings; the largest public collection of her work is located at the Witte Museum in San Antonio.

[1] Cecilia Neuheisel Steinfeldt, Art for History’s Sake:  The Texas Collection of the Witte Museum (Introduction by William H. Goetzmann), (San Antonio:  The Texas State Historical Association for the Witte Museum of the San Antonio Museum Association, 1993), p. 269.

[1] Pauline A.Pinckney, Painting in Texas:  The Nineteenth Century (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 1967), p. 118.

Image: Elize Bunzen Wueste, Pencil on Paper, original dimensions (paper):  10” H x 8 13/16” W, ca. 1860s, [ ]

Courtesy of The Jerry Bywaters Collection on Art of the Southwest, Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University

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