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Aldro Hibbard: Ranging Far and Wide at Vose Galleries, December 7, 2019 to January 18, 2020

Aldro T. Hibbard’s name is nearly synonymous with paintings of snow, yet his oeuvre contains a surprising amount of variety in both subject and style produced across a 70-year career. Vose Galleries has been fortunate to handle an extensive number of works by Hibbard and to witness the extraordinary range of this gifted artist. With 'Aldro Hibbard: Ranging Far and Wide,' we are pleased to share the versatility of one of New England’s favorite painters at home and abroad. Featuring more than 20 examples by the artist, the exhibition will be viewable online December 7, 2019 to January 18, 2020.

Aldro Hibbard (first row, third from right) with his classmates at the Massachusetts Normal Art School, circa 1909, Vose Galleries' Archives
“Family legend has it that Hibbard was four years old when he first showed a penchant for draftsmanship. He apparently tired of watching his father, a sewing machine salesman, who was, while equipped with a flair for drawing, struggling with rendering a chair in pencil, and took over the drawing himself, finishing it with credible skill.”

-Elaine Hibbard Clark

Aldro Hibbard enrolled at the Massachusetts Normal Art School where he studied under such notable teachers as Ernest L. Major, Joseph R. DeCamp, and Frederick A. Bosley. He completed their four-year program in three, and promptly enrolled at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he continued to learn from artistic luminaries Frank W. Benson, Philip Hale and Edmund C. Tarbell.

'Fishermen off the Spanish Coast,' circa 1914, oil on canvas mounted to board, 9 3/16 x 11 1/4 inches, signed and dated lower right: 'A. T. Hibbard 191– (illegible)'

After winning the Museum School's prestigious Paige Traveling Scholarship, Hibbard made his first and only trip to Europe and Northern Africa in 1913-1914, spending fourteen months filling his sketchbooks and working en plein air as he explored cities across Western Europe. First staying in London and Paris, he then crossed over to Spain, venturing from north to south, and in early 1914 was exploring the coastal towns of Malaga, Valencia and Barcelona. It is likely at one of these ports where Fishermen off the Spanish Coast (above) was painted and, as with many of the smaller pieces done on site during his travels, he worked using dappled brushwork to capture the play of light on the placid current and to render the rugged terrain of the distant mountains.

Capri, Italy, 1914, oil on canvas, 20 1/8 x 24 1/8 inches, signed and dated lower left: A. T. Hibbard / 1914

Working his way to Italy, Hibbard first arrived in Capri, where he spent nearly two months enthralled by the island’s surplus of appealing subject matter, as noted in his travel diary: “Fine material and would like to stay six months. Had my breakfast on rocks, and a wonderful morning. Smoke from Vesuvius blowing toward us. Painted all day. Lunch and dinner on shore.” Capri, Italy (above) resulted from Hibbard’s stay on the island and was later exhibited in a solo display of thirty-six paintings held at the Belmont Public Library in early 1919. In his review of the show, critic William Howe Downes made special mention of the painting: “A notably luminous effect is produced in the ‘Capri,’ with its pergola in the foreground, and the deep blue sea beyond.” Indeed, one’s eye is immediately engaged by the striking iridescence of the sun-splashed white wall and the play of light and shadow along the walkway, as well as the complementary red and green tones of the potted flowers and canopy of vines. The painting also demonstrates Hibbard’s thorough grasp of color and strong composition, as well as the stippled paint application that became a hallmark of his early impressionist style.

San Marco, Venice, Italy, 1914, oil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 36 1/8 inches, signed and dated lower left: A. T. Hibbard 1914

Following his stay on the island of Capri, Hibbard traveled north to Venice and Chioggia, capturing the charming residents and colorful vessels along the waterfront of these historic places. The paintings resulting from these travels were exhibited in his 1916 Boston Art Club debut to much admiration from critics, with one commenting: “The Italian subjects are the most numerous. A brilliant and admirably luminous view of the façade of San Marco, in which the golds and reds of the decorations and the flags are seen in a warm flood of light, is a conspicuously fine performance.” Although we cannot confirm the painting in the exhibit is the same as our San Marco, Venice, Italy (above), the description is fairly representative of the sparkling gold ornament and swaying flags, softly lit by the day’s last warm rays of sunlight. The painting also exemplifies the broken-color brushwork found in much of his early work.

Italian Boats and Archway, 1914, oil on board, 12 x 9 inches, signed and dated lower right: A. T. Hibbard / 1914

Italian Boats and Archway (above) was likely painted in either Venice or Chioggia, where the artist stayed from mid-May until late September, before the outbreak of war eventually cut his European adventure short and he returned to the States after Thanksgiving. In a diary entry from his time in Chioggia, he notes the subjects that drew his interest: “Left early to paint. Interesting street scene. Senoras making lace. Men mending sails and people washing, all kinds of occupations. Went painting in a native boat.” The activity along the waterfront was most intriguing to the painter, although he had to contend with the hustle and bustle of a working port, as noted in a later entry: “Sails came down, rudders came off and boats changed position but I stuck to the post and got something out of it. Such is an artist’s life, full of troubles.” Italian Boats and Archway demonstrates Hibbard’s ability to capture an engaging composition in a small space as well as his attention to rendering the way sunlight falls on the scene, hitting the uppermost parts of the masts and casting long purple shadows against the background wall.

Aldro Hibbard painting outdoors, Vose Galleries Archives.

After his return to Boston in 1914, Hibbard stepped into the life of a professional artist. He painted a wide variety of subjects, but drifted most often toward winter landscapes, which he felt particularly drawn to. He acknowledged a debt to the winter landscapes of Willard Metcalf, specifically the technique of creating a veil of delicately-toned colors, one placed next to another, to describe light and shadow on snow. In his early canvases, Hibbard practiced a similar technique that produced a delicate pointillist feeling, which he called “broken-color.” Equally important to Hibbard was Metcalf’s practice of painting outside in the middle of winter.

“Hibbard wasn’t a religious man…but he found in the woods a sense of the divine in the beauty of nature. It was a place for solace and contemplation.”

-Elaine Hibbard Clark

Hibbard produced several fine winter landscapes, including Winter Days, which was later purchased by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He submitted one of his earliest winter paintings, February Thaw, to the National Academy in 1916. He exhibited in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, and in Boston with a one-artist exhibition at the Boston Art Club in 1916. Three years later, a show of his winter scenes at the Guild of Boston Artists received glowing reviews.

Belmont, Massachusetts, in Winter, oil on canvas, 27 1/8 x 30 1/8 inches, signed lower right: A. T. Hibbard

Hibbard’s earliest snow scenes were created around Belmont and Milton, Massachusetts. Belmont, Massachusetts, in Winter (above) has remained in the collection of the artist’s family for a century and bears the same refined palette and broken color brushwork as examples from this early period currently in museum collections, including the previously mentioned Winter Days in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. An exhibition of thirty-six paintings held at the Belmont Public Library in early 1919 included several snow scenes of the town which impressed William Howe Downes, critic for the Boston Evening Transcript: “In the winter pictures made near home are several which by their sturdy naturalism might be classed as belonging to the school of Gardner Symons, Edward W. Redfield, and W. E. Schofield, and the comparison would not result in any depreciation of the Belmont painter’s relative ability. His intelligent realism and objective fidelity to nature is, moreover, in certain examples, lifted to a higher plane of beauty by a touch of poetic feeling. ‘Belmont Hills,’ ‘Winter, Belmont,’ ‘Gray Day,’ and ‘Willows’ are perhaps the most complete, satisfying, and memorable essays in this direction. The subtle, delicate, and harmonious effects of various values in gray, in combinations which exemplify the beauty of unity in variety, lend to these compositions a very real and durable charm.” Belmont, Massachusetts, in Winter embodies the writer’s description of the artist’s sensitivity to the nuances of color, even in a seemingly “gray” composition. The rolling hills and snow-covered fields are filled with lovely passages of soft blues and purples, leading to the glowing golden sunlight reflecting off the distant ridge; even the deceptively overcast sky is rendered with a similar variegated palette.

Vose Galleries' Ad, New York Times, 1986.
Signs of Spring in the Mountains, oil on canvas on board, 15 1/4 x 18 1/4 inches
“Snow is the most sensitive subject, subtly influenced by sudden changes in light. It is never dead white!”

-Aldro Hibbard

Aldro Hibbard and Winifred Jackman Hibbard on their honeymoon, Banff, Canada, 1925, Vose Galleries Archives

Hibbard discovered the beauty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in the mid-1920s, first on his own and later on his honeymoon with Winifred Jackman in 1925, and the studies he completed during these visits would inform compositions throughout his lifetime. An exhibition of these works at the Guild of Boston Artists in 1926 found an admirer in critic A. J. Philpott, who felt compelled to compare Hibbard’s renditions to those done by John Singer Sargent a decade earlier: “But Sargent did not know mountains in such an intimate way as Hibbard. Hibbard not only gives you the spirit of the mountains in all their massive grandeur, but he gives you something else – an intimate something that others don’t just get.” The lakes, mountains and woodlands provided endless inspiration, and he even traveled by horseback in order to reach some of the more spectacular views. Bow River, near Banff, Canadian Rockies demonstrates Hibbard’s vigorous brushwork and strong sense of color and composition in rendering the majestic peaks and crystalline lakes and rivers of Western Canada.

(left) Sunlit Peak, Lake Louise, Canadian Rockies, oil on canvas, 28 1/8 x 36 1/8 inches, signed lower right: A. T. Hibbard; (right) Bow River, near Banff, Canadian Rockies, oil on canvas, 30 1/8 x 34 1/8 inches, signed lower right: A. T. Hibbard

By the 1930s, Hibbard was spending the winter in Vermont and the warmer months of the year in Rockport, Massachusetts. There, he established the Rockport Summer School of Drawing and Painting and grew to become a legendary member of the North Shore artists' colony and even the Rockport baseball team.

Rockport Summer School of Drawing and Painting outdoor lesson, unknown date, Vose Galleries' Archives
Motif #1, Rockport, in Winter, oil on canvas mounted to board, 15 x 18 inches, signed lower right: A. T. Hibbard

A leader in civic matters, Hibbard was an ardent supporter of preserving the intrinsic charm of the community, even taking on the task each spring of choosing the exact shade of red that the town would paint the fishing shack commonly referred to as Motif #1. Of Rockport, the artist remarked: “Far and wide, it is recognized still as a distinctive and exceptional spot. Rockport is perhaps the choicest painting and recreational ground on the Atlantic seaboard.” While Hibbard and his family would usually depart Cape Ann for Vermont by November, at times snowy weather early in the season would create paintable scenery just outside his Granite Street home or along the waterfront, as seen in Motif #1, Rockport, in Winter (above).

In addition to popular sites along the waterfront, Rockport’s historic granite quarries became favorite subjects for the Cape Ann colony. The history of granite quarrying in Massachusetts is well-documented, dating back to the turn of the nineteenth century and only coming to a gradual close following the Great Depression. By the mid-1800s, the Cape Ann region came to dominate the industry thanks to its unique way of fashioning raw granite into practical blocks used as paving stones, which were shipped to rapidly growing cities across the country. Most painters’ depictions of the quarries showed them long past their prime and filled with water after years of vacancy due to the stock market crash and increasing use of steel and concrete in construction. Hibbard’s view of Swan Quarry (below), however, captures the site still in use as laborers set to the task of extracting and preparing the stone for export, a vocation that served as the economic backbone of Rockport for generations, second only to fishing. The steep, angled walls of the quarry are rendered with his perceptive sense of light and shadow, and Hibbard would later translate this painting into a larger canvas that is now in the collection of the Rockport National Bank.

Swan Quarry, Rockport, Massachusetts, circa early 1920s, oil on canvas on board, 15 x 17 5/8 inches
Gloucester Harbor, oil on canvas on board, 18 x 20 inches, signed lower right: A. T. Hibbard

In addition to sites throughout Rockport, Hibbard explored nearby towns in search of paintable material, such as this view of Gloucester Harbor (above) and a view of Essex marshes looking toward Hog Island (below). The latter example depicts the outpost initially called Hog Island (allegedly due to its distinctive shape in the form of a hog’s back or in reference to the animals found on the farms it held, or perhaps a combination of the two), and formally renamed Choate Island in 1887, although many continue to affectionately refer to it using its porcine name. Hibbard’s painting reveals his knack for developing strong compositions in his canvases, here using a series of curving lines and blocks of color to bring the viewer in and through the landscape to the rounded form of the island in the distance.

Island Road and Hog Island, Essex, Massachusetts, oil on canvas, 17 1/8 x 20 inches, signed lower right: A. T. Hibbard

Many artists have been drawn to the tranquil coves and dramatic cliffs of Maine’s Monhegan Island since the mid-19th century, and Aldro Hibbard was no exception. Soon after the close of his Rockport Summer School in 1949, he began making trips to the island, usually in autumn, with friends and fellow artists Lee Winslow Court and Earle Titus. Monhegan Harbor, Maine (below) which shows the island of Manana in the background and Smutty Nose on the right, reveals the artist’s strength for capturing the glow of sunlight on the bluffs and wharf, and on the various watercraft on the clear blue water. The inclusion of lobster traps stored next to the dock and a lobster smack moored near Manana at left speak to one of Monhegan’s main sources of income from October through May, before tourism takes over during the warmer months.

Monhegan Harbor, Maine, circa 1950s, oil on canvas mounted to board, 17 3/4 x 23 7/8 inches, signed lower left: A. T. Hibbard

Despite travelling in search of subject matter, Hibbard returned again and again to one place in particular - Vermont. At the recommendation of fellow Boston artist and Fenway Studios resident William J. Kaula, he first traveled to Vermont in 1915 and was immediately taken with the mountains, valleys and charming residents of the region, which he would paint for the remainder of his career.

"You must get to know a place before you can paint it. Otherwise you just do a flash picture that misses the meaning and potential of your subject."

-Aldro Hibbard

(left) Winter, Vermont, oil on canvas on board, 18 x 25 inches, signed lower left: A. T. Hibbard; (right) Mount Mansfield, Vermont, oil on canvas, 28 x 36 1/4 inches, signed lower left: A. T. Hibbard

As the cold descended on New England, Hibbard would depart Rockport, Massachusetts, and settle into his Jamaica, Vermont, farmhouse, spending the next several months rendering the grand vistas and charming snow-caked hamlets found throughout his adopted state. The long Vermont winters not only provided an abundance of snow, but also the idyllic themes of bygone days – quaint clapboard homes, sprawling pastures, dense forest interiors – that were fast disappearing. He planned his outings well in advance by studying forecasts, dressing in layers, and even crafting a special knit glove through which he held his brush before finally donning his snowshoes and trudging out to his chosen spot. Despite the hardships of painting in sub-zero temperatures against a biting wind, Hibbard amassed a portfolio of brilliant landscapes imbued with crisp mountain air coupled with an undeniable warmth. His snow, while frozen in life, radiates on the canvas, thanks to his inspired handling of light and color. Carefully designed and superbly rendered, Hibbard’s compositions feel impromptu, a clever tactic made all the more essential for one at the mercy of Mother Nature.

Article from The Boston Herald, April 30, 1939, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston's Artist Files
(left) Vermont Homestead, oil on canvas, 21 x 34 inches, signed lower right: A. T. Hibbard; (right) Winter Farm and Clouds, Vermont, oil on canvas on board, 16 13/16 x 20 7/8 inches
Sawmill in Newfane, Vermont, oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches, signed lower right: A. T. Hibbard

The industries that defined the Green Mountain State – farming, timber, and the harvesting of maple syrup – naturally made their way into Hibbard’s compositions as well, and today scenes such as Sawmill in Newfane, Vermont stand as tributes to the region’s indefatigable spirit. In his book, A. T. Hibbard, N.A.: Artist in Two Worlds, John L. Cooley writes of Hibbard’s depiction of Vermonters at work:

“Often he kept a rendezvous with the loggers, bound for a distant forest. With them he rode into the deep woods to sketch and paint scenes that would soon disappear: oxen hauling sledges laden with spruce logs, men cutting trees with handsaws and rolling them on to the carriers, sawmills with steam up, making the forest into lumber – primitive processes that in a few decades would become uneconomical and give way to mechanization. They would pass from the American scene; but on Hibbard’s canvases they live, in all their color, vitality, and charm.”
(left) West River Valley, Autumn, oil on canvas, 30 1/8 x 36 1/4 inches, signed lower left: A. T. Hibbard; (right) Spring Freshet, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches, signed lower right: A. T. Hibbard

Hibbard's stays in Vermont usually began in late fall, and sometimes lasted until April, allowing him the opportunity to capture the prismatic colors of the changing seasons. In the words of John Cooley, “Autumn…brought glorious spectacles. [Hibbard] had never seen, until that first October in Vermont, the color applied with so lavish a brush. Cape Cod couldn’t duplicate the oriental carpets spread over the mountains, fields, and valleys. He recorded the festival eagerly, and went back to it every year.” Cooley could easily have been describing West River Valley, Autumn (above, left). The painting immediately engages the viewer with its vivid palette and bold brushwork, and reminds us why New England remains a top destination for leaf peeping every fall. On the other side of the harsh winter, Hibbard captured the slumbering trees and valleys emerging from the frost. He depicts this gradual thaw familiar to many northern New Englanders in the wonderful Spring Freshet (above, right) in which beams of sunlight fall upon the diminishing snowbanks and swirling current of a mountain stream. The painting reveals both the artist’s strength for composition, as he uses a series of diagonals leading the viewer’s eyes into the scene, and as well as his perceptive sense of color in rendering the iridescent water.

"But Winter or Summer makes no difference to Aldro T. Hibbard. In point of fact his pictures of the snow-clad mountains in Winter are just one ravishing glory of color and form. You feel as if you could live with these mountains and enjoy their changing color beauty every minute of the day and evening – and of the night. Looking at these pictures you feel, for the first time perhaps, as if you, too, were intimately acquainted with the over-powering color beauty of the mountains.”

- Boston Daily Globe, March 17, 1926, p. 13

To categorize Aldro Hibbard purely as a painter of New England landscapes and snow is to disregard his varied skill. His artistic aptitude, especially in his student and early professional years, embraced a variety of subject matter including portraits, genre scenes, and still lifes, and his landscape work carried him internationally and into every season. Aldro Hibbard: Ranging Far and Wide, surveys the breadth of the artist’s output throughout his long and celebrated career, and is viewable online December 7th, 2019 - January 18th, 2020.

Click here to view the entire exhibition online.

Vose Galleries

238 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116

(617) 536-6176 • info@vosegalleries.com www.vosegalleries.com

Catalog Design: Catharine L. Holmes; Photography: Tyler M. Prince, Gabe J. Chevalier; Writing: Courtney S. Kopplin, Molly Burroughs; Catharine L. Holmes. Archival Research: Francisco Herraiz. © 2019 Vose Galleries, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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