Wendel was born in Midway, Ohio, and trained at the McMicken School of Design where he met and befriended Joseph DeCamp. Together, the two artists traveled to Munich in 1878 to study with Frank Duveneck at the Munich Academy. Wendel returned to the U.S. in 1882, and in 1883, he settled in Boston and opened a studio there.
In 1886, Wendel returned to Europe to continue his studies at the Academie Julian in Paris, and during the summers of 1887 and 1888, he became a close friend of Claude Monet and painted at Monet’s gardens in Giverny with fellow Americans, Theodore Robinson, Willard Metcalf, and John Twachtman. Under the influence of Monet, Wendel’s style evolved from the dark, richly layered canvases of the Munich School, to the soft palette of Tonalism, and finally to full-blown Impressionism, with its vigorous brushwork and bright high-key colors.
Upon his return home, Wendel exhibited these new works extensively, and his stylistic transformation was very well-received; one critic even hailed Wendel as the “earliest of the Boston impressionists to handle the Monet style with effect.” This pastel was no doubt executed during this period, and it is a marvelous example of Wendel's mature impressionist style.
During this time, Wendel also began teaching at the Cowles Art School, where he met and married a student, Philena Stone, in 1897. They settled in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where Wendel painted for the remainder of his career, until his death in 1932.