1891 (Indianapolis, Indiana)
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Black American Artists
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|The following biography is from material developed for Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana by Tom Davis:|
John Wesley Hardrick (September 21,1891-October 18, 1968)
John Hardrick"s grandfather moved to Indianapolis around 1880 to escape the racism around his rural Kentucky farm. By 1888, John's father, Shepard Hardrick, had married Georgia Etta West and settled on South Prospect Street, where John was born in 1891.
John showed a natural talent in art very early on, drawing by the age of 6, doing watercolors at 8, and exhibiting some of his work at the age of 13 at a Negro Business League Convention here in town. One of his teachers at Harriet Beecher Stowe School was so impressed with his work that she showed it to local arts patron Herman Lieber, owner of an art supply store, who saw to it that John attended children's art classes at the John Herron School of Art.
While attending Emmerich Manual Training High School, he was a student of Otto Stark, and in 1910, he began attending regular classes at Herron, where he studied under William Forsyth. But financial pressures meant that John had to work nights at the Indianapolis Stove Foundry in order to put himself through Herron.
1914 was a big year for Hardrick. He married Georgia Ann Howard and held his first exhibition, selling some of his paintings for as much as $200. However, he continued to work in the foundry in order to support his wife and growing family of three daughters. For awhile, he had a studio at 541 1/2 Indiana Avenue with fellow artist Hale Woodruff, but increased financial pressures forced him to spend less time on art and he quit the foundry job to go to work in the family trucking business.
One critic thought this actually improved the quality of his work, giving him "time to grow and develop unconsciously." He continued to exhibit, and several of his works were shown at an Art Institute of Chicago exhibit in 1927. Local leaders in the community tried unsuccessfully to secure a major grant for him through this exhibit, but Hardrick received only a small second prize and a special presentation from Indianapolis Mayor L. Ert Slack.
He continued to receive community support. A group of black organizations raised funds and purchased one of his paintings, "Little Brown Girl," which was given to the Herron Art Institute for its permanent collection. The Allen Chapel of the AME Church commissioned him to paint a large painting of Christ and the Samaritan Woman in 1928. Four of his paintings were selected for the 2nd Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Negro Art in San Diego, and its catalog read: "In spite of acute poverty, this young man has the faculty of discerning beauty in everything, being able to face all his adversities with a smile that conceals the feeling within, at the same time he possesses a personality which strangely draws people to him."
He also participated in the 1929, 1931, and 1934 Hoosier Salons at Marshall Field and Company in Chicago, as well as other shows. But the degree of his poverty is revealed by the fact that once, because he could not afford to pay the $4.47 delivery charge when a painting was mistakenly returned to him COD, the painting was sold by the storage company. The Civil Works Administration commissioned him to do a mural for Crispus Attacks High School in 1934, but it was rejected because the subject was black foundry workers and not the scenes of doctors and lawyers the principal had hoped for.
As his own health began to decline, and his wife Georgia died in 1941, John left the family trucking business and moved with his three daughters back into the old family home at 3309 South Prospect. Some friends allowed him to set up a studio in their basement, but as a cab driver he often set up his easel downtown and quickly painted street scenes while waiting for fares, selling the work as quickly as it was finished, or offering other paintings from the trunk of his cab. He continued to paint until he developed Parkinsons disease late in his life, acquiring a measure of national recognition if not financial security by the time of his death on October 18, 1968.
He furnished the following text as part of his first exhibition in 1914: "As a race, the negro has made wonderful progress in the last half century. It has produced great men as orators, statesmen, inventors, educators, and musicians, and now the field of arts and crafts is open to the negro. . . . The object of the present exhibition is an attempt to stimulate an interest among the colored citizens of Indianapolis to encourage art; to inspire, if possible, some young talented boy or girl to realize that "Life without labor is crime, and labor without art is brutality. For those of us who are now making a feeble attempt, we will fall without the support of our race. We need your co-operation, your encouragement, in order to successfully explore the field of art. In conclusion, I'll say in the name of John T. Moor:
Tis the coward who stops at misfortune.
Tis the knave who changes each day;
Tis a fool who wins half the battle,
And throws all his chances away.
There's little in life but labor,
And tomorrow may prove but a dream,
Success is the bride of Endeavor
And luck but a meteor's gleam.
The time to succeed is when others
Discouraged, show traces of tire;
The battle is fought in the home stretch
And won --twixt the flag and the wire."
Many members of the black community were captured in portraits by John
Hardrick. Xenia Goodloe, a dress designer at L.S. Ayres and the wife of its head baker, is forever a beautiful woman dressed for a party, in one of these portraits.
copyright 2000 by Tom Davis
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