"Study for Swenson's Ruin" Austin Texas

  • Details

    S.M. Swenson (1816-1896)

    A Swedish immigrant and one of Texas' early capitalists and large scale ranchers, began building a villa in the Govalle section of Austin in 1860.  Because of his staunch Unionism, Swenson fled Texas during the Civil War and afterward made his home in New York City.  Lungkwitz's sketch and oil painting of Swenson's Ruin were completed during the 1870s, and were mentioned for the first time in the Austin Daily Democratic Statesman in January 1878.  The unfished mansion was a favorite site for picnics during the late nineteenth century and was eventually demolished.
    Reference;  Austin Daily Democratic Statesman, January 13, 1878

    Swante M. Swenson (February 24, 1816 – June 13, 1896) was the founder of the SMS ranches in West Texas. It was through his efforts that Swedish immigration to Texas was begun in 1848.[1] In 1972, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.[2]


    Svante Magnus Svenson was born at Alarp, Barkeryds Parish, Jönköping County, Sweden. He migrated to America in 1836, where he worked in New York City before traveling to Baltimore, Maryland,[3] and then to Galveston. In 1850 Swenson moved to Austin and established a mercantile business with his uncle Swante Palm. While running the business, Swenson continued to buy Texas Railroad Certificates and to acquire land.  Swenson arranged passage for Swedish families principally from Småland, who in turn worked for Swenson to pay off the price of the ticket. Most of the early immigrants also bought land from Swenson.[4]Swenson began shipments of the Texas pecan to the North and East; and in 1850 established himself in the general merchandise and banking business at Austin. In Austin, Swenson also served two terms (in 1852 and 1856) as a Travis County commissioner and in 1853 became the first treasurer of the State Agricultural Society. In 1854 he invested in the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway, which gained him acres of land in northwestern and western Texas. Swenson's greatest interest lay in the accumulation of land. He traded many of the manifold supplies carried by his large frontier trading post for Texas railroad land certificates. Under the privilege then accorded to holders and owners of such certificates to file on any untaken state land, Swenson in 1854 began acquiring acreage of unclaimed properties in Northwest Texas. By 1860 he owned over 128,000 acres around Austin, in addition to his West Texas holdings, which had increased to nearly 500,000 acres.[5]SMS Ranches eventually became one of the largest landowners in Texas. Swenson leased his ranch holdings to his sons, who operated the ranches under the name of Swenson Brothers Cattle Company from headquarters in Stamford, Texas.[6][7]Swenson established the banking house of S. M. Swenson and Sons in New York City. Though he lived in New York, he maintained his ties to Texas, operating a clearinghouse for Texas products, continuing his work as a cotton agent, and regularly visiting his extensive land holdings. Swenson died in Brooklyn, New York, and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery (Bronx, New York).[8]On September 3, 1850, Swenson purchased a city lot in Austin. In 1854, he built the Swenson Building on Congress Avenue where the current Piedmont Hotel stands today. Inside the building, on the first floor, were a drug store, a general goods store, a hardware store, and a grocery store; a hotel, (named the Avenue Hotel but locally known as the Stringer’s Hotel) was located on the upper two levels of the building. The Travis County Deeds Records show that sometime later, Swenson leased the hotel to a John Stringer, giving the hotel its name “the Stringer’s Hotel.” An 1885 Austin city Sanborn map of the Swenson Building shows that Swenson had a room built for “servants” in the hotel portion of the building. There is no documentation detailing whether enslaved people stayed in that room since the Sanborn map is dated twenty years after the Civil War.[citation needed]Through his trade dealings in the south, Swenson befriended a slaveholder by the name of George Long, who then hired Swenson to work at his newly relocated plantation in Texas. A year later, when Long died due to poor health, Swenson married his widow, who then too died of tuberculosis three years later. By 1843, Swenson became a full-scale slaveholder in Texas through inheriting his now-deceased wife’s plantation. In 1848, he enlarged his property holdings by purchasing the adjoining plantation and expanding his cotton crop. In 1850, along with purchasing 182 acres a few miles outside of Austin, he bought the lot on Congress Avenue and constructed the Swenson Building and inside, the Stringer’s Hotel.  According to the Texas State Historical Association Handbook of Texas, during the secession crisis, Swenson, who opposed both northern and southern radicalism, agreed to help Governor Sam Houston in an attempt to prevent Texas secession; Swenson was to raise supplies for an independent Texas army and in 1861 was promised a commission as quartermaster-general on Houston's staff, a position with the rank of colonel. When the effort failed, Swenson, who by this time had sold all his slaves, remained in Texas but vowed that he would not aid the South and that he would never take up arms against the United States.

  • Biography

    Hermann Lungkwitz (1813-1891)

    Early Texas landscape painter and photographer Karl Friedrich Hermann Lungkwitz was born on March 14, 1813 in Halle-an-der-Saale, Saxony, while Napoleon's artillery bombarded the city. The majority of three hundred fifty extant Lungkwitz works are pencil and oil studies from Europe. His Romantic landscape paintings of the Texas Hill Country, old San Antonio, its Spanish missions, and Austin, were painted over four decades, documenting nineteenth-century Texas. Two pre-Civil War lithographs (Dr. Ernest Kapp's Water-Cure, Comal County, Texas and Friedrichsburg, Texas) and one postwar lithograph (San Antonio de Bexar) have been identified.

    Lungkwitz completed his paintings in his studio, based on careful pencil drawings done at favorite locales like Enchanted Rock, Bear Mountain, and other promontories north of Fredericksburg, which Lungkwitz called the Granite Mountains, and the Guadalupe, Pedernales, Llano, and Colorado river valleys. Reflecting his training at the Dresden Academy, his detailed paintings are luminous with bright earth colors.

    Lungkwitz studied with Adrian Ludwig Richter, a Romantic landscapist, at the Royal Academy in Dresden from 1840-1843. Lungkwitz received a certificate of achievement from the Academy for a view of the Elbe River in the latter year. During three summers, he painted the Austrian Salzkammergut and Upper Bavarian Alps. Until 1850, when he emigrated to America with his family, Lungkwitz was probably a professional artist in Dresden. He may have had to flee Saxony because of participation in the revolution of 1848-49 and insurrection against the Saxon king in May 1849.

    After six months in Wheeling, West Virginia, Lungkwitz, his artist brother-in-law Friedrich Richard Petri, and their families, left for Texas. He arrived in New Braunfels in July 1851, remaining six months before moving west to Fredericksburg, where they settled on a farm in 1852, where Lungkwitz remained until 1864. Not surprisingly, on the harsh, hill-country frontier, the two artists could not make a living from their painting, so they resorted to farming and raising cattle.

    When Petri died in 1857, Lungkwitz learned photography, a profession that he followed in San Antonio with Carl G. von Iwonskiqv from 1866 until 1870. Between 1859 and 1861 Lungkwitz, Wilhelm Carl Augustus Thielepape, and photographer William DeRyee, visited New Braunfels, Austin, the Texas Hill Country, Indianola, and towns along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers exhibiting their works and giving magic-lantern shows.

    Moving to Austin in 1870, he was employed as a draftsman and photographer for the General Land Office. His daughter Martha may have been the first woman employee of the state of Texas when she was appointed a clerk in the Office. Lungkwitz apparently did not paint during his tenure on this job. When he lost his employment in 1874 after a change in political administration, he began to paint again in and around Austin and the Texas Hill Country for the next fifteen years.

    During the 1870s and the 1880s, he also gave lessons and taught at the German-American Ladies College, Alta Vista Institute, and the Austin Female Collegiate Institute, all in Austin, and apparently run by his son-in-law Jacob Bickler. He also worked on the sheep ranch of his daughter Eva Klappenbach near Johnson City and gave private art lessons in Austin and Galveston, where he periodically visited the Bicklers after they moved there in 1887.

    Lungkwitz' shared a studio with artist William Henry Huddle, painting, it is said, the landscape parts of Huddle's painting of Santa Ana's surrender and portrait of Davey Crockett, which now hang in the foyer of the Texas State Capitol in Austin. Lungkwitz lived, in 1891, with Jacob Bickler in Galveston.  Karl Lungkwitz died of pneumonia on February 10, 1891, at the Austin home of his daughter Helene von Rosenberg and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery there.

    Lungkwitz was nearly forgotten for a generation after his death, but his works, along with those of Richard Petri, have been exhibited in Texas museums and universities since the 1930s. Examples of both artists' work can be found at the Texas Memorial Museum, University of Texas at Austin; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth; and the San Antonio Museum Association. Lungkwitz was given a major exhibition by the University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio in 1983-84.

    Other collections holding the work of Karl Hermann Lungkwitz include the Center for American History; Governors Mansion, Austin (lent by Witte Museum, San Antonio); Capitol Historical Artifact Collection, Austin; Comfort Historical Museum; Dallas Historical Society; Torch Energy Advisors, Inc., Houston; Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library, and Witte Museum, San Antonio; and San Antonio Public Library.

    Lungkwitz's exhibitions include:

    Yanaguana Society Exhibition of Old San Antonio Paintings
    Centennial Exhibition of Early San Antonio Paintings
    The Early Scene: San Antonio
    Remembering the Alamo: The Development of a Texas Symbol
    The Art and Craft of Early Texas (1988),

    John and Deborah Powers, "Texas Painters, Sculptors, and Graphic Artists"