Olendorf, William(American, 1924-1996)
William Olendorf, a lifelong Chicago resident and world recognized artist sketched and painted Chicago and the cities of Europe for over 30 years. Bill's style is neo-impressionist. He is recognized for not only his colorful paintings, but also for his distinctive black and white sketches. Olendorf's work consists primarily of landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes done in his straightforward identifiable style which reflected the beauty in what he saw.
Bill, an ad executive turned artist, led a rich and colorful life. Born in Deerfield, Illinois, he started painting in high school and continued on during his years at Harvard and Washington & Lee University. After serving in the U.S. Navy in the World War II era, he joined the ad industry working at Leo Burnett and Foote, Cone & Belding. At age 40, he quit the ad business and started painting full time.
He travelled extensively and received commissions from corporations to paint what he saw. He used his contacts in the commercial world to sketch company headquarters, skylines and cityscapes all over the world. His favorite geographical area was Europe. In fact, he painted and sketched there every year for 20 years, enjoying the landscapes and the buildings.
His paintings are in the private collections of former presidents Bush, Reagan, Nixon, Ford and Clinton. His work is also in the private collections of Henry Kissinger, Anwar Sadat, Fidel Castro, Jack Lynch and president Mubarak of Egypt. Among the corporate collections that contain his work are Amoco, J. Walter Thompson, American Airlines, the Matif, Tiffany & Company and Bloomingdales. Bill also produced self-published sketchbooks of Chicago, Palm Beach and Paris, still available in print.
Although Bill loved Europe, he knew Chicago best. He knew the neighborhoods and the hangouts and expressed his opinion on good and bad architecture and politicians. That is why his family partnered with the Claridge Hotel on Dearborn Street to display paintings and fine art prints. He considered the Claridge Hotel to be one of his favorite spots and loved to go there, have a glass of wine and hear the guests comment about his work. As an accomplished artist and far-reaching man, he was enthused that his world could be seen through the eyes of a new generation not accustomed to the joy and optimism of his art.
He died in February, 1996. His wake was at the Claridge Hotel Famous newsman, Ike Pappas from CBS performed the eulogy. Over 350 of Chicago's "illuminati" came to pay their respects to an artist who typified the essence of the post-war creative energy of the city. The Olendorf Gallery at the Claridge exhibits a precious portion of the exclusive and small body of work left in trust. The acrylic paintings in the bar, lobby and restaurant are a good representation of the mature style of the artist. A larger body of his work and the extensive archives of his drawings and sketches is housed in a gallery adjacent to Bill Olendorf's summer home in Michigan.

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