Family heirloom almost donated to Goodwill sells for six-figure sum at art auction

A Washington state family that nearly gave away a pricey piece of art to Goodwill decades ago fetched a six-figure payday when the heirloom was sold during an auction last month.

The majestic painting of bluebonnets in Texas by renowned artist Julian Onderdonk was sold for $112,500 on Saturday after it had been in the Brinkley family for more than a century, according to reports.

The artwork was among a collection of possessions destined for Goodwill after Carlotta Preston’s family was helping the woman clear out her home ahead of her move from California to Washington before 2005, her grandson Jared Brinkley told Texas Monthly.

Onderdonk’s “A Field of Bluebonnets, San Antonio, 1921.” Heritage Auctions

But Preston had called out for it at the last minute because she said it was “too pretty to surrender,” according to Heritage Auctions.

Preston’s parents received it as a gift years earlier by an extended family member who shipped it to her to celebrate the year she was born, 1922.

After Preston died, her daughter, who lives in Washington, took it in and put it on a wall in her dining room.

No one understood how valuable the 1921 painting, dubbed “A Field of Bluebonnets, San Antonio,” was until Preston’s daughter did some digging.

“It was a family heirloom all these years,” Jared Brinkley told the auction house.

Julian Onderdonk, a San Antonio native and landscape artist, working in the field in this undated photo. Texas State Historical Association

“But it was decoration. We hadn’t considered researching it. And now, it should go to someone who will genuinely appreciate it.”

Onderdonk is considered the father of Texas painting who was born in San Antonio in 1882.

He came to New York to study art and later moved back to Texas where he was drawn to painting bluebonnets, according to the Texas Historical Society.

Onderdonk’s “Blue Bonnets on Grey Day, North of San Antonio, Texas, 1916.” Heritage Auctions

Those paintings became his most popular and valuable pieces.

The canvas brought by Brinkley was initially listed for $30,000, according to Texas Monthly. 

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