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 Hardie Gramatky  (1907 - 1979)

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Lived/Active: Connecticut/California      Known for: streetscape and marine painting, children's book illustrator, animation

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Ad Code: 3
Hardie Gramatky
from Auction House Records.
Gracie Mansion, New York
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Note from Loren T. Bieg

I was 7 or 8 years old when I met Hardie Gramatky.  He lived at the top of the Roseville Road hill where I rode my Schwinn bicycle in Westport, Connecticut.  I think I must have first met him at the Westport Book Fair where he came year after year to sign his books.  But, what impressed me as a little boy was that I immediately felt that I could stop by his home any time, which my brother and I did on our bicycles.  He would always take an interest in what we were doing and spend time talking with us.  On Halloween night in 1977, I knocked on his door dressed as R2D2, a costume I had spent hours building myself.  I still remember being invited into his home and the look of amazement on his face as he commended me on the "engineering" involved in its construction.  He made me feel special.

However, the most special thing to me about him is that he would draw for us.  I think that for an artist and author of children's books it is the best gift he could have given us as children.  Not just the artwork, but the time spent with us talking as he worked.  There was something magical about Little Toot, the real Little Toot, appearing on his easel in front of me.  And, there was something magical to me about the man that made it happen.  My brother has a framed watercolor of  Little Toot hanging in the stairwell of his house, outside his son's room.  "To my good friend Scott" is inscribed on it.  That's how I'll always remember him.

Perhaps the hardest memory I have of him is the day I rode my bicycle past his house and saw him being helped out of the car by his wife and someone else.  He was visibly weak and thin.  I had heard that he was sick and felt afraid of what I saw.  I still regret not having stopped and greeted him.  He died soon after and I didn't really understand, only that I missed being able to go visit him.

Certain things about childhood remind us of the innocence we long for, especially now since September 11, 2001.  Something about this man and the too brief, but very precious memories I have of him takes me there. I just now read about his accomplishments and learned all kinds of things about him that I never knew.  But, to my brother and me he will always be more than Little Toot's author and an illustrator of great achievement.  He was our friend. I am thankful I had the chance to know Hardie Gramatky.  I am only sorry our time was so short.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Dallas, Texas, Hardie Gramatky became an illustrator of national reputation, especially known for his Little Toot children's books for G.P. Putnam's Sons.  One of the first books to convey personality of a machine, Little Toot was created by Gramatky when he was an animator at Disney Studios in California.  He was also a painter, especially known for his watercolors, and did American Scene paintings of cityscapes, landcapes, seashores, and construction workers.

He grew up in Southern California and began his artistic career in 1926 while a student at Stanford University and then continued to study at Chouinard Art Institute.  He became a member of the California Water Color Society, and was a key artist in the development of the California Style, which brought new respectability to watercolor painting on location.

From 1930 to 1936, he worked as an animator for Walt Disney Studios and then moved East to do magazine and childrens' s book illustration.

During World War II, he returned to Los Angeles, and in 1946 worked on the cartoon G I Joe.  From 1947 to 1979, he worked as an illustrator in Connecticut where he died.

Gordon McClelland and Jay Last, The California Style
Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940

Biography from
Biography provided courtesy of "California Watercolors 1850-1970" By Gordon T. McClelland and Jay T. Last.

Hardie Gramatky, N.A. (1907-1979)... Born: Dallas, TX

Studied: Stanford University, Chouinard Art Institute (Los Angeles)

Member: National Academy of Design, New York Water Color Club, American Watercolor Society, California Water Color Society.

Hardie Gramatky was raised in Southern California. He studied art with E Tolles Chamberlin, Clarence Hinkle, Pruett Carter and Barse Miller. A dedicated student of watercolor painting, he produced an average of five small watercolors per day. By 1929, he had become a proficient watercolorist and was recognized as one of the true innovators in the development of California Style watercolor painting. These skills helped him to get a job as a senior animator at the Walt Disney Studios.

In the early 1930s, he became active on the board of the California Water Color Society and it was largely through his aggressive moves that the California School of watercolorists was able to take control of the Society and expand it into a nationally recognized organization. In 1937 the Ferargil Gallery became his art agent in New York City and began selling his watercolors. He also exhibited works in other cities in America and established a reputation as one of Californids premier watercolorists.

By the 1940s, he was producing commercial art to be used for magazine illustrations and began writing and illustrating a series of childrer's books. Hercules, Loopy, Creepers Jeep and Sparkey were all books he created, but Little Toot was the one that would become an all-time best seller. During World War II, he worked in Hollywood producing training films for the United States Air Force and after the war, moved permanently to the East Coast.

Settling in Connecticut he pursued a career as a commercial illustrator producing art for Fortune, Colliers, Woman'Day, True, American and Reader's Digest.

Biographical information:

Interview with Dorothy Gramatky, 1983.

Biography from The John Stewart Gallery:
A well-traveled California style artist, Hardie Gramatky divided his career equally between Los Angeles and New York. As a youth in Southern California, he acquired his training at the Chouinard Institute; and he was a regular exhibitor with the California Water Color Society from 1923 to 1939, a period in his life that included a stay of several years in New York, where he joined Miller and Sample on the roster of artists at Ferargil Galleries.

Typical of the reviews he received, one observed that "though color and light and mood are the most evident aspects of Gramatky's pictures, much of their convincing reality is achieved by drawing that is solid, full-bodied . . ."[24]

Gramatky had honed his proficiency at creating rapidly-executed works by meeting the demands of a multifaceted career that included work as a Hollywood film animator and a free lance magazine and book illustrator. During this period he continued to send work to the California Water Color Society's exhibitions, while also showing at the Pennsylvania Academy.

In 1940 he participated for the first time in the American Watercolor Society's annual exhibition in New York, where he joined such regulars from the California group as Sheets, Kosa, and Blair. Because of his considerable work in other areas, Gramatky was not so prolific in watercolor as some of his colleagues; however, he earned due recognition from the art community through a number of prizes and purchases. In 1938 a watercolor, American in the Park, was acquired by the Toledo Museum of Art.

(This bio information is from excerpt from 'Watercolor Painters in Context' by Donelson Hoopes)

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Hardie Gramatky is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
The California Art Club

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