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As often happened with the old guild apprenticeships, David Hardy started his art studies when he was eleven years old. His grandmother, Marion Virginia Randall Randlett, became his first teacher. She had studied with William Merritt Chase during
the early days of the Art Students League of New York.
Even in her later days, "Mammaw" still fumed her resentment that when she did her anatomy studies, classes were segregated and she was herded into a "ladies' group".
Art classes in academia proved to be very frustrating for Hardy. His teachers at Southern Methodist University and, one summer, the University of Colorado at Boulder, were much more involved with Picasso and Matisse than with Vermeer, Rembrandt and Rubens.
At age nineteen, Hardy continued his studies with the prominent Dallas portrait painter, Ramon Froman, under whom he studied for three years. Froman shared his admiration and knowledge of the use of "lost and found edges" favored by Velasquez.
When David Hardy enrolled in the American Academy of Fine Art in Chicago, it was a big step. He was determined to go, but, because of some family emergencies, had used up his savings. He went anyway, with the grand sum of $200.00 in his pocket. The first day in Chicago, he made a bee line to the American Academy and put down $90.00 tuition deposit just to guarantee to himself that he really would be able to enroll.
By working at night at the main post office in Chicago's Loop, Hardy was able to enroll full time in the day classes at the American Academy.
There he studied anatomy and figure drawing with an elderly Antonin Sterba. Sterba, when quite young, had studied with some of the French Academy greats at the Academe Julian in Paris. Sterba introduced Hardy to the approaches favored by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres for constructing the human figure.
Hardy went on to advanced figure drawing at the American Academy under the tutelage of Joseph Vander Brouk, graduate of the Royal Academy in Brussels. Van der Brouk emphasized the importance of describing light on form.
An interesting charcoal process was used in Vander Brouk's classes. Charcoal dust was scattered evenly over the paper. (Many a stick of charcoal disappeared onto the sandpaper block to make this possible.) The charcoal was then coaxed into an even tone of middle value by gently rubbing into the paper with a soft paper tissue or a shammy skin. When this was completed, the student artist would rub over the entire surface with a bare hand. The minute amount of oil naturally on the skin then helped stabilize the surface by burnishing it. Once all this had been completed, the paper was covered with a beautiful middle grey tone, ready to receive the drawing.
Working tonally out from this middle grey, the student artist then would proceed to rub out various intensities of light, using the shammy skin or the soft paper tissue. Sometimes this would also be helped along by rubbing off charcoal with a clean bristle brush. Extremely strong lights, such as highlights, would be pulled out with a kneaded rubber eraser. Shadowed areas and darker lights were created by adding fresh charcoal strokes onto the grey tone. Sometimes this was brushed in using powdered charcoal, then reinforced using charcoal crosshatching delicately applied from the tip of a long, thinly pointed stick of vine charcoal.
Hardy's figure painting teacher at the Academy was the renowned William Moseby. A talented colorist, Moseby was a graduate of both the Royal Academy in Brussels and the Superior Institute in Antwerp. Under his brush, the colors of nature became alive. Small wonder that the students looked forward to Moseby's occasional demonstrations.
After three and a half years of continuous studies at the Academy, Hardy moved to New York.
He then enrolled in his grandmother's alma mater, the Art Students League. At the League, he worked with the great anatomist, Robert Beverly Hale. Mr. Hale's favorite mode of explaining the structural dynamics of the human body was to execute life size drawings on large sheets of paper using his charcoal stick mounted on the end of an impressively long rod. To watch him draw was like watching the amazing movements of a great ballet dancer.
Frank Mason, his figure painting instructor at the League, introduced Hardy to research and Old Master painting formulations reconstructed by Jacques Maroger, former Head of Restoration, the Louvre Museum, Paris.
While in New York, Hardy also studied creative thinking for artists with Jack Potter at the School of Visual Arts.
By this time David Hardy had his head filled with marvelous, exciting art do's and dont's. Feeling a need to digest and test his growing understandings, he decided to take a job at night as a waiter in the cocktail lounge of a Greenwich Village restaurant. By doing this, he was able to use his daylight hours to paint, paint, paint.
About this time, Hardy began to realize that to really acquire the greater technical breadth and artistic forcefulness he recognized in his idols, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Rubens, Velasquez and Caravagio, he would have to become an art archaeologist.
The academicians who knew much of what he sought had grown old, long before he was born. Because these academicians fell out of favor and therefore no longer had students under their guidance, they ofttimes took most of what they knew to their graves with them. Hardy would encounter part of what he yearned to know from one person, then another part, perhaps overlapping a bit, from another. But there were still gaps. Important gaps.
At this point, Hardy turned to the museums. He had, by now, discovered that as your understandings advance and grow, it is possible to look at a painting and see it's process. In other words, it is possible when looking at a painting to recognize how the painting was put together--- what was done first, then next, all the way through to the finish.
Through the years he became indebted to the fine collections of major and minor paintings in the Metropolitan Museum and Frick Museum in Manhattan, the Brooklyn Museum, the National Gallery in Washington, the Louvre Museum in Paris, the Reichs Museum in Amsterdam and the National Gallery in London. Sometimes paintings by minor masters were the most helpful, because the minor masters did not cover up their tracks as well as the major talents.
Following the advice of an internationally respected portrait painter, Hardy moved back to his city of birth, Dallas, and launched a ten year career as a portrait painter.
Shortly after his return to Dallas, he was approached to teach art. Hardy already was convinced that if you have specialized knowledge, you have an obligation to share that knowledge with others. And so began his teaching career, which continues today.
David Hardy is founder and director of the Atelier School of Classical Realism located in Oakland, California. The school is noted for its thorough coverage in its curriculum of Old Master approaches and processes, devoting special attention to individual student needs. Advanced students are taught to fine tune their work so that they can hold their own professionally on a national and international basis.
In his more than thirty years living on the West Coast, Mr. Hardy has taught at the California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC) in Oakland, served as guest lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, and participated in the docent training program at the M. H. De Young Museum, San Francisco, with lecture/demonstrations focused on the Old Master layered painting processes using glazing.
An accomplished draftsman and painter, Hardy is collected internationally. Public collections featuring his work include the Dow Chemical Company, Freeport, Texas, and the Hall of Justice, Hayward, California, and Silicone Graphics, Sunnyvale, California.
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