Carl von Iwonski (1830-1912) arrived in Texas with his family in 1845, and began his artistic career in New Braunfels. His father, Leopold von Iwonkski, was a Prussian army officer but little else is known about his childhood before he came to the U.S.
Mainly self-taught, it is believed that Iwonski may have received informal training from his German artist friends, Hermann Lungkwitz and Richard Petri, both Dresden-trained artists.
He opened his first studio in the 1850s and made pencil, ink, watercolor, and oil portraits of German settlers in the area. Iwonski also created a series of drawings of scenes performed by the New Braunfels Amateur Theater. His well-known panorama of New Braunfels was lithographed in Leipzig, and his lithograph of the Germania Gesangverein of New Braunfels in 1857 depicted the first German singing society in Texas.
In the late 1850s Iwonski moved to San Antonio and painted scenery and scenes from plays performed by the German settlers’ Casino Club. Right before the Civil War, Iwonski made sketches of Texas state troops in San Antonio and at Camp Las Moras near Brackettville. The latter work was the first Civil War sketch reproduced in Harper’s Weekly. Iwonski’s The Terry Rangers (Sam Maverick and the Terry Rangers) is a well-known painting of Texans galloping off to war.
Iwonski proved a versatile artist in a variety of mediums. The breadth of his interest was large and included landscapes, scenes of pioneer life, amateur theatricals, stage scenery, busts, lithographs, still lifes, political cartoons, Indians, and Civil War episodes. He was best known, however, for his portraits of Texas pioneers. Iwonski’s pencil portraits of children were especially sensitive in treatment and can be favorably compared to those of Richard Petri.
In 1873, Iwonski moved back to Germany with his mother. He stayed active in the art scene until his death in 1912.