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Hildegarde Hamilton

 (1898 - 1970)
Hildegarde Hume Hamilton was active/lived in Florida, Virginia.  Hildegarde Hamilton is known for landscape, coastal view, illustrator.

Hildegarde Hamilton

Biography from the Archives of askART

The following is from Christine Smollett

My father was the General Manager of The Carlton House (and my mother was the accountant) in Nassau, Bahamas, and Hildegard Hamilton used to stay at the hotel and do her exhibits there. I have a program from one of her exhibits held there. We lived in the hotel and my sister and I were little girls. Hildegard was a kind old lady and gave my sister and me each a painting that she did in the Bahamas. When she would go around the world she mailed us pictures.

If my mother was still alive I know she could tell you more information than I can, but, I can tell you what she wrote on the back of those pictures. On the picture of her standing in front of the mountain and boat, she wrote on the back "Hildegard Hamilton with her painting of Palermo, Sicily which I painted on order for a Cicilian N.Y. family who own many of my paintings of Colombia, Martinique, Peru, Venice and Nassau."

On the back of the picture of her sitting on a sidewalk painting she wrote: "For Christine MacNabb (that is me) from Hildegard Hamilton painting in her Nassau hat and dress on a narrow street in Paris on the left bank in the Latin Quarter near the Seine a year ago this April. I am sending this to you Christine so that you will remember the way I looked when you and your sister watched me paint on East St. some time ago."

On the back of the picture that you have posted on AskArt she wrote "Hildegard Hamilton painting rue St. Julien des Parweres(sp?) in Paris on the left bank in June 1965 which scene I sold in 1965. Got back in 1965 from a woman in ? (intelligible) who bought 3 other paintings at the time she bought this one. I sold it in Oct. 1966 to a German girl who likes Paris".

Each of those pictures would have been sent to me in the late 60's.

Biography from American Eagle Fine Art
By Debbie Hughes, granddaughter of Hildegarde Hume Hamilton, 2004.

Growing up, I remember with fondness the visits to Hildegarde's house in Fort Lauderdale. She lived in a small house in front of a canal with a huge banyan tree in the front yard. The house always smelled of oil paint and her paintings were stacked up everywhere, on the mantel, on the furniture, walls - all the way to the ceiling, occupying every available space. The minute we'd arrived she would occupy us with discourse and stories.

During the day we'd enjoy the beaches with her, at night the restaurants that often had her paintings lining their walls as well. My grandmother had a rich and colorful story behind most every painting she did - not that unusual since she traveled the globe painting landscapes her entire adult life. My mom and uncle accompanied her on these journeys, largely due to the fact that they had no choice in the matter, it seems that Hildegarde's painting always came first.

In writing the biography below, I extend many thanks to Manuel E. Flores, John Nettles, my uncle Hume Hamilton, Suzann Kruthaupt, and the privately compiled 1978 Gables Art Gallery Chronology which I have used as a basis for my research along with piles of papers, letters and photos that I have gone through. Also, much heartfelt thanks to my mom, Meldegonde Giles for all of her memories and input. At the end of this page I have also listed quite a few notable collectors who own Hildegarde's paintings as well as a list of "Firsts" for a woman artist of her time.

Hildegarde Hume Hamilton was born Sept. 11, 1898 at the House of the Good Shepherd, Syracuse, New York - daughter to Maude Hume Hamilton and Dr. James Henry Hamilton, who taught Economics, Sociology and Political Economics at Syracuse University from 1896 to 1903. He also lived and worked at The University Settlement in N.Y. He and Maude, from Clinton, New York, married in 1890 and resided in Syracuse, NY.

In 1901 Hildegarde's mother Maude drowned - an apparant suicide, but there are no details about the circumstances. Hildegarde lived with her father until 1904, then was placed in the home of her aunt and uncle, Mr. & Mrs. Lindsey Best in Plainfield, New Jersey. There she attended school until the 5th Grade.

By 1908, her father had taken Hildegarde to Geneva, Switzerland, and Florence, Italy, and she had decided she really wanted to be a painter. Her father made the decision to take her back abroad in 1909 where she received Art training in Geneva, Florence and Berlin under various tutors for three years. She returned to New Jersey to finish High School and also during this period attended the Art Students League in New York and studied with the Summer Landscape School in Woodstock. In 1921 she received her B.A. from The University of Arizona.

From 1921 to 1926 Hildegarde returned to Europe to study at the Academie Julian, Academi Colarossi, Ecole des Beaux Arts, and the Academie de la Grand Chaumiere, all in Paris. Other schools were the L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Toulouse; Acadamia de Bellas Artes, Sevilla, Spain; and Harvey and Proctor School of Modern Landscape Painting, Newlyn, Cornwall, England.

She returned to the U.S. and studied briefly at John Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis, Indiana; Cincinnati Art Academy, Cincinnati, Ohio and under Anthony Thieme, Rockport, Massachusetts.

Sometime in her trip to France before 1926, Hildegarde met Captain Lucien Hobart Ryland aboard a ship on it's way to Grenoble, France. A gentleman of an old Virginia family, Hobart, who had fought in World War I, was at this point in time on his way to study at the University of Grenoble. Later he would become a professor of Romance Languages at the Virginia Military Institute. Hildegarde was going to Grenoble to study and paint. They spent time together there and met up with Hildegarde's father in Paris; her father was so impressed with him that he gave his consent for marriage. A month later Hobart proposed and upon returning to the states in 1926, they were married at The University Settlement in New York, where Hildegard's father had lived and worked for so many years. By the first winter after her marriage Hildegarde had sold 300 landscapes during that one year.

In 1927 Hildegarde had exhibited work in Virginia, Indiana, Washington D.C.(The Women's Welfare Conference), Paris (The Exhibition of Modern Artists), Grenoble and Nice (The First Salon of Women Painters) and on the Steamship Hamburg on it's voyage across the Atlantic. She reportedly exhibited paintings on the First, Second and Third Class levels of the ship so that everyone on board could view them ( she would later continue this type of exhibiting - always on the way home from Europe if she was granted permission from the Captain).

Upon her return from Europe, Hildegarde made her debut in New York at Ainslie Galleries, 677 Fifth Ave. with a one-man show. She exhibited 33 French Alpine scenes. She met with much success and sold quite a few pieces. This same year she went on to have many more exhibits in New York at various galeries, hotels, libraries and at the University Settlement. In 1928, Hildegarde had a one man show at the Women's National Party Headquarters on First Street. Vice President Charles Gates Dawes (an old friend of the family) gave Hildegarde much encouragement and purchased one of her paintings.

June 1928, Hildegarde and Hobart sailed for France, where she painted and exhibited in many Continental Art Societies, and he obtained a Doctorate in the Romance Languages at the Sorbonne in Paris.

October 22 - November 2, 1928 - Hildegarde had a one-man show at the leading gallery in France - Galerie Bernheim Jeune in Paris. This gallery included much of the Estate of the late Georges Pierre Seurat. Hildegarde's exhibit consisted of 47 paintings of landscapes and cities in Switzerland, Franche-Comte, Paris, Grenoble, the Chateau of Chillon, Mont Blanc and a major canvas - a view of the ruins that survive above Sassenage. The exhibit was viewed by the various Embassies, American Women's Club, the Beaux Arts, journalist reporters, members of the Legion of Honor - all of whom spoke in praise of the exhibit. It was reviewed by The New York Herald, Paris Art Notes by Georges Bal, the magazine: Intransieance - Les Arts and the Magazine: Les Artiste D' Aujourd' Hui.

In 1929 Hildegarde was the First American Woman to exhibit at Philip Dillon's Club: "L'Artistique" at Provence. She also exhibited at the Fortieth Salon of the Societe des Artistes Independants in Paris, the Galerie Alban, Monte Carlo and the Society of Modern Artists, Paris. In this year, Hildegarde gave birth to her first child: Meldagonde in Marseille, France.

Again on her return home from Europe, Hildegarde exhibited her paintings aboard a ship, this time on the S.S. Vulcania. She arrived in New York in August with her new baby, her husband, 4 Siamese cats and 300 paintings packed in the automobile they had used in Europe.

In 1930 Hildegarde exhibited mostly in Washington D.C. at the Carlton Hotel through the Art Promoters Club of which she was a member, however, she also had exhibits in New York at the Grand Central Palace, American - Anderson Galleries on 30 East, 57th St. and the Huntington Bay and Yacht Clubs. Her gallery shows at this time included paintings of Italy, France, Switzerland, Greece, Yugoslavia and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Hildegarde and family lived at 9 Gramercy Park at this time.

In late July of this year she departed once again for Europe with her husband, daughter - Meldagonde and her father. In October in Paris she gave birth to her second child - Hume. The family stayed in Europe till the following year.

Around January - February 1931, Hildegarde met Rudyard Kipling in her travels. Later he wrote to her on April 25 from Aix-en-Provence -praising her paintings. Kipling also acquired one of Hildegarde's paintings later which was a study of a fountain in Aix-en-Provence. (See Public and Private Collections).

In the Spring, Hildegarde painted in Ajaccio and Corsica, in the summer she painted in Jeroma, Northern Spain. During this same time period 1930-31, Hobart had written a book titled Francois Fabie (Fabre) - a story about a peasant poet. It was published in France in 1931 and translated into several foreign languages. Hildegarde supplied illustrations of French subjects for the book.

In the fall of 1931 Hildegarde and family returned to the U.S. From 1932 - 1933, she had shows in New York, New Jersey, and Washington D.C. Also in 1932 she was elected a non-resident member of the National Arts Club in New York City and given her own gallery space at 15 Gramercy Park. In 1933, she again sailed for Europe. From 1933-35 she had One-Man Shows in Constantinople, Turkey; American College, Sophia, Bulgaria; Heidelberg University, Germany and on the Steamship "Washington", returning from Europe.

While in Istanbul, Hildegarde was admitted into a Turkish harem to paint the slaves, apparently the only artist from the states allowed to do this. She was also granted permission to paint in a Mohammedan Harem in Tangier but was not allowed to sell the paintings. Shortly afterwards she was allowed to paint in the royal palace gardens at Seville - the first woman artist allowed to do this. She returned to America with 150 paintings and resumed exhibits in New York and Washington D.C. The scenes in these pieces were of Seville, Spain, Faro, Tetuan, Nuremberg, Palma, Budapest and Istanbul. In October of 1935, Hildegarde received a letter from Pearl Buck who saw her paintings at the Pen and Brush Club in New York and offered praise. Pearl Buck was also a member. (Again, another letter that seems to have dissappeared from the archives, but one in which I did personally see).

In June of 1936, Hildegarde sailed for Europe again to paint scenes along the Dalmation Coast, Austria, Budapest and Switzerland. In November she returned to exhibit at the Pen and Brush Club. In 1937, Hildegarde bought a home on the Tarpon River in Fort Lauderdale as a vacation home, several years later this home became her permanent home and studio.

In 1938 to 1943 Hildegarde experienced her darkest times. In 1938, Hildegarde and Hobart divorced. It was stated by my mom, that they simply just didn't get along. He moved back to Virginia and started another family. Hildegarde remained in New York with her two children. In 1939, she received more bad news, her father had died. After James Hamilton's death, Hildegarde suffered a nervous breakdown and was confined to a mental hospital for one year. Meldagonde and Hume were sent to live with their father and step-family. The bio I have leaves alot of details out on what happened at this time. I know from my mom that Hildegarde was very close to her father considering he was her closest relative and on their trips to Europe they spent most of their time together. Hildegarde didn't resume painting until 1943 when she chose to paint West Point from the River - where Hobart had been an instructor during the War years (WW II).

From 1943 on Hildegarde resumed painting and exhibiting - mostly one-man shows in New York. In 1946 she started spending her summers in Nassau and would continue doing this for the remainder of her life. Her work would lead her from Nassau to Abaco, Eleuthera, Spanish Wells, Exuma, Grand Bahama and other outer islands. In 1949 she had her 1st one-man show in Nassau. In 1954 during her summers in Nassau, Hildegarde would exhibit at The Lucerne Hotel every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon.

From 1954-55, while her son Hume was stationed in the U.S. Army in Germany, Hildegarde followed him to Europe where she painted in Venice, the French Alps, Paris, Germany and throughout the continent. During his leaves they traveled and painted together. In the fall of 1955, Hildegarde had a one-man show at the National Arts Club at 15 Gramercy Park, New York. Her exhibit included most of the work she did in Europe as well as paintings from Nassau. She continued to exhibit in both New York and Nassau and even had one exhibit in Lima Peru in 1963 at the Galerias Ivaldi.

In the summer of 1965 she returned to Europe again to paint in London, Wales, Belgium, Paris, and Lisbon. In the Spring of 1966 she traveled to Malta, Palermo, Tripoli and Rome. She was written up in the Malta News, June 3rd 1966. Upon her return to the U.S. Hildegarde was written up in a story by Terry Frost in the Miami Herald. The story was titled: "If there's no answer she's in another Country". Dated July 26, 1966.

In the spring of 1967, Hildegarde traveled to Rio de Janeiro and then on to Argentina. In 1968 she exhibited in Nassau - mostly at the Carlton House. In 1969 she traveled to Equador and in that same year she traveled to New York in the fall to exhibit paintings at the Hotel Irving.

From December 30 - January 4, 1970 Hildegarde had a One-man Show at the Pen and Brush Club in New York. The exhibit included scenes of Equador. This was Hildegarde's last exhibit. Sometime in New York, Hildegarde had a stroke and became dissoriented. She had traveled alone and her son, Hume had to drive up and bring her back home to Fort Lauderdale. She was hospitalized at Broward General Medical Center upon her return. The rest of the family traveled down to see her(we lived in Atlanta, Georgia at this time).

On January 22nd, 1970 Hildegarde died in her sleep. The cause of death was a heart condition resulting from pneumonia and various complications. It was quite sudden for all us, considering how energetic and strong she was the last time we had seen her. We had also wondered if Hildegarde had a traumatic experience in New York, because she kept repeating that someone had been trying to steal her paintings there. We never knew exactly what happened. She was missed very much by all of us, especially me - I was 12 at the time.

Firsts for Hildegarde:
Believed to be the first Woman permitted to use her palette and canvas to paint the slaves inside the "Holy of Holies" - a Turkish Harem in Instanbul. Also, she was granted permission to paint in a Mohammedan Harem in Tangier.
First woman to study at the Academia de Bellas Artes, Sevilla, Spain.
First woman allowed to paint in the Royal Gardens at Seville.

Public and Private Collections (a Partial listing)
Eaton Gallery, New York City
Hall of Art, New York City
Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia
Vice President Charles Gates Dawes
The Allen Collection, Florida
Sir Bede Clifford, Governor of the Bahamas
Governor and Lady Grey, Nassau, Bahamas
Sir Robert Neville, Governor ot the Bahamas
Indian Students Club, Darwin's House, London
American Church of Paris
Societe des Beaux Arts, Paris
Rudyard Kipling, English Novelist and poet, 1865-1936
The above names were culled from articles in newspapers, and they are but a few of the literally thousands of people worldwide that acquired her works over the years. There are still a good number of paintings in Fort Lauderdale in the house that she lived in there. I have acquired a number of them as well.

Hildegarde was also listed in editions of:
Who's Who in Art
Who's Who in American Art
Who's Who in the Southeast
E. Benezit, Paris
Enciclopedia Del Ante En America, Buenos Aires

And she held memberships in over 30 art organizations worldwide.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

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About  Hildegarde Hamilton

Born:  1898 - Syracuse, New York
Died:   1970 - New York, New York
Known for:  landscape, coastal view, illustrator