Lauretta Sondag
Artist, Writer, Independent Spirit

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August 26, 1897: Lauretta Sondag was born in Covington, Kentucky, to Etta Cosgriff Sondag and Joseph Sondag, a shoemaker. The couple lived at 1822 John Street in Covington at the time.

Spring 1900: Per the Federal Census, two-year old Lauretta lived in Bellevue, Kentucky with her parents at 221 Washington Ave. Records from the Central Christian Church of Newport, Kentucky indicate that the family moved to 263 Foote Ave. in Bellevue later that year.

1905: The records of Central Christian Church indicate that Mrs. Sondag was still a non-resident member of the church, living in Bellevue. Joseph Sondag, who was never listed as a member of the church, is thought to have died sometime between 1902-1905.

1910: The Federal Census lists a "Lauretta E. Sondag" age 29, living in a boarding house in Twin Falls Idaho, next door to a boarding house in which Etta Sondag's brother, Charles Patterson Cosgriff, is living. Mrs. Sondag (who was probably closer to 39 at this point) listed her occupation as department store clerk. Mr. Cosgriff was a sign painter. There is no mention of young Lauretta, age 12.

1910-1912: According to Lauretta Sondag's obituary from the Twin Falls Daily News (no date on clipping), Sondag attended Twin Falls High School from 1910-12, "taking her first lessons in art under Miss Eva Martin and her uncle, Mr. Cosgriff. During her last year in Twin Falls school at the age of 12 years [note: she would have actually turned 15 in 1912], she wrote two scenarios which were accepted by the Edison producers, and which were run a week here by A.R. Anderson." Per Kino Video's Web site on the history of the Edison Company, by 1912 "the company's filmmaking staff mastered the art of storytelling within the one-reel format (15-18 minutes in length). Edison films were generally safe: light comedies and moralistic dramas, along with a few science and public service films." It is currently unknown if prints of these films survived.

January 24, 1913: Sondag enrolled for the college preparatory track at Queen Anne High School in Seattle, Washington, giving her address as the Strathmore Apartments. School records confirm that she came to Queen Anne from Twin Falls High School in Twin Falls, Idaho.

Junior Prom Lincoln Totem 1914 p. 59

Above: Lincoln High School Junior Prom, 1914

Fall 1913: Sondag transferred to Lincoln High School in Seattle for her junior year, but did not give the school a new contact address. Her school record ends at the end of the 1913-14 school year.

1914-1919: Nothing is definitely known of Sondag's whereabouts at this time. A biography sheet distributed by the Ezra Meeker Historical Society (probably written with the help of her mother or friends) suggests that she sold classified ads for the Seattle daily newspaper. Her biography in Who Was Who in American Art claims that she taught at a public school in Seattle, suggesting that she may have earned a GED. The April 9, 1916 Seattle Times reported that on April 5, "Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Anderson entertained informally at their home on Twelfth Avenue and Forty-fifth Street" for eight guests, including Miss "Lorette" Sondag, her friend Miss Grace Hesketh, Mr. Carlton Leary and Mr. Lincoln Morehouse (whom Miss  Hesketh married in September 1916). Mr. Anderson, the son of a former president of the University of Washington, operated a photographic supply business and was an amateur photographer; Mrs. Ada Woodruff Anderson was a noted author of novels and stories about pioneer life in the northwest.

Spring 1920: Per the Federal Census, Sondag lived at 418 Cass Ave. in Detroit. She gave her occupation as "Bookkeeper-post office." She may have begun her art studies in Detroit, transferring to the Art Institute of Chicago c. 1922-24.

September 1921: Sondag is mentioned as a member of the cast of the Hume Players' production of "Beyond the Horizon" by Eugene O'Neill, in a Detroit Free Press review published on September 22. Sam Hume, the director and star of the production, had been the director of the Arts and Crafts Theater of Detroit from 1916 to 1918; he returned to Detroit in fall 1921 to produce and direct a series of six plays at Detroit's Orchestra Hall. Sondag most likely played the role of Kate Mayo, the mother of the two male leads; this would suggest that Hume thought highly of her acting skill, as he cast her to play a woman twice her age.

1924-25: In the 1925 yearbook of the Art Institute of Chicago, Lauretta L. Sondag is listed as a third-year student. In 1924 she won the Frederick Magnus Brand Memorial Prize and honorable mentions in illustration and advanced life.

In June 1925, Sondag exhibited work in the annual Chicago Art Students League show at the Art Institute. She was awarded a $15 prize "for best group of works by one exhibitor, showing the greatest knowledge of composition."

In July 1925, Sondag signed a contract with the Art Institute to serve as an instructor for an eight-week junior class held in July and August. Per the contract she was to receive $120, payable in two monthly installments of $60. However, she only received $30 in August, suggesting that she may have found a replacement instructor to take her class for the last two weeks of August. Did she travel to Woodstock, New York to study under Alexander Archipenko in late summer? This may be impossible to prove conclusively, since the school's registration records for 1925 no longer exist.

1926: In May, Eleanor Jewett of The Chicago Tribune reported that Lauretta Sondag and Ethel Spears were among 20 finalists competing for three traveling scholarships at the Art Institute. Jewett wrote that Spears and Sondag's "spirited and amusing contributions in several exhibitions at the Art Institute have made them hard to forget."

In June 1926, Sondag and Spears were singled out for attention in Jewett's review of the Art Students League's annual exhibit. She noted that two "girl artists contribute the greater part of the fun" in the show. "One of thiese clever wielders of the brush is E. Spears and the other is L. Sundag (sic). The initials are camouflage. Last year the catalogue spelled out their names in full and I am positive that both were of the more witty gender." One can only imagine the disappointment Sondag and Spears felt at their continued relegation to the field of "girl artists," witty or not.

In August, Sondag participated in the annual Art Institute student exhibition. In September her painting, In the Park, was reproduced in The Chicago Tribune, where Jewett wrote that Sondag "gives great promise of being one of the ablest and wittiest of the younger school of artists, when her student years are completed."

1927: Sondag departed Chicago and returned to Detroit, where she joined the Detroit Free Press as a staff artist. She also worked as a scene painter and supporting player with the Ann Harding Stock Company.

1928: Sondag moved to New York City and joined the Art Students League, possibly living with artist and fellow Art Institute alumnae Ethel Spears at 304 West 12th St. To support herself, she freelanced as a commercial illustrator for furniture advertisements. In November 1928, she exhibited a collection of sketches with polychrome wash as part of a four person show at the G.R.D. Studio (with Gaston Besson, A. Wayne Wilhelm, and Gertrude Moira Flanagan). Also in November 1928, it is likely she exhibited at the Anderson Galleries in the tenth annual Louis C. Tiffany Foundation exhibition of emerging New York artists. Around this time, Sondag arranged to leave some of her work with the American Anderson Gallery at the request of the gallery's director, Walter M. Grant.

1929: According to her obituary in The Twin Falls Daily News, Sondag moved to Philadelphia and worked as a feature writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

On June 22, 1929, Sondag wrote to Robert W. Macbeth of the Macbeth Gallery in New York, a gallery well known for its association with artists of the Ashcan School: "Last winter Mr. Grant of the Anderson Galleries told me you were interested in my work. Since time has elapsed as time does, I have added a number of new sketches to the collection." She offered to arrange to send or bring the works to Mr. Macbeth for his review if he was still interested, "for at present I am a resident of gay old Philadelphia." She gives her return address as 1719 Spruce Street, a small apartment building located near Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia's arts district.

On September 11, 1929, Sondag wrote to Walter Grant at the Anderson Galleries: "I believe you still have an assortment of early Sondag's floating around your office. Since leaving them with you I have been a bit storm tossed and am now living in Phladelphia. I shouldn't say living because I am merely existing here and I am counting the days until I can return to New York. This town reminds me of New England during the time of the Puritans and any day I may be burned to the stake as a witch." She informed that Mr. Macbeth "vaguely hinted" about the possibility of an exhibit at Macbeth in the coming searson and asked if he would also be interesed in seeing her new work. Mr. Grant responded that he would transfer her work from his gallery to Mr. Macbeth, and asked her to let him know when she sends her new work to Macbeth so he can see them.

1930: Correspondence between Mr. Macbeth and Sondag continued through the winter and early spring, but still no date is set for a Sondag exhibit at the Macbeth Gallery. In the second week of February, Sondag traveled to New York (possibly to see Ethel Spears' work in an exhbit at the YWCA, where she won a prize for best painting) bringing some new work to show Macbeth, but he was out of town. Back in Philadelphia on February 17, she informed him of her show then taking place at Philadelphia's Edward Side Galleries in the Warwick Hotel. On March 9, 1930 she sent Mr. Macbeth a final letter, attaching her reviews from the Side Galleries show, which were mixed.

On April 24, 1930, Lauretta Sondag underwent surgery to extract an abcessed tooth at Episcopal Hospital, a charity hospital in Philadelphia. Her physician reported that she had been suffering from the infection for nearly two weeks before seeking treatment. During the surgery, Sondag had a reaction to the anesthesia used and slipped into a coma. She lingered four days before dying on April 28; contributing causes of death were listed as blood poisoning and fluid in the lungs. Per her mother's wishes she was cremated and her ashes were sent home to Seattle; place of interment is not known.

In the first week of November 1930, a memorial show for Ms. Sondag was held at the American Anderson Galleries.


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