Huddle, William Henry (1847–1892)

By: Sam D. Ratcliffe

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: October 31, 2019

William Henry Huddle, painter, was born in Wytheville, Virginia, on February 12, 1847, the son of Stephen G. and Nancy (Foster) Huddle. He served under generals Joseph Wheeler and Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Confederate cavalry. After the war, he moved with his family to Paris, Texas, and worked in his father's gunsmith shop. He soon returned to Virginia to study painting under his cousin, Flavius Fisher, who became a well-known portraitist in Washington, D.C. In 1874 Huddle moved to New York to study at the National Academy of Design. Along with Henry McArdle and Robert J. Onderdonk, he was among the 123 students who formed the Art Students' League during the academy's temporary closure in 1875. The next year Huddle returned to Texas and took up residence in Austin, where he lived until his death, except for one year in Europe. During these years, he became acquainted with other members of the state's nascent artistic community. He began to concentrate his artistic energies on Texas history and politics, subjects that became his artistic trademark. Gradually, he found his specialty in executing portraits of Texas political and military figures. In 1884, possibly with encouragement from Hermann Lungkwitz, Huddle sailed to Europe for a year of study in Munich. He intended to improve his technique in order better to fulfill a commission from the Texas legislature to paint portraits, to be hung in the state Capitol, of Texas presidents and governors. Upon his return home in 1885 he resumed his efforts to complete the portraits of former chief executives of Texas, and before his death he completed portraits of all the presidents and the first seventeen governors. He also showed a new interest in historical painting, quite possibly influenced by exposure to this type of art in Munich and his instruction at the academy. He painted The Surrender of Santa Anna (1886) to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the battle of San Jacinto, and the painting has attained the stature of an icon of Texas history. Huddle completed it within a year of its conception, researching and painting its component parts as discrete entities before assembling them into a finished whole. In 1891 the Twenty-second Legislature appropriated $4,000 for the purchase of the painting, which now hangs in the state Capitol, as does Huddle's portrait of David Crockett. His painting of Hood's Texas Brigade at the battle of the Wilderness was destroyed in the 1881 Capitol fire. Huddle married Nannie Zenobia Carver (see HUDDLE, NANNIE) in Austin in 1889. He died of a stroke in Austin on March 23, 1892, and was buried there in Oakwood Cemetery.

James Patrick McGuire, Hermann Lungkwitz (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983). Pauline A. Pinckney, Painting in Texas: The Nineteenth Century (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967).

  • Visual Arts
  • Painting

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Sam D. Ratcliffe, “Huddle, William Henry,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 20, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 31, 2019