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David Howard Hitchcock

 (1861 - 1943)
David Howard Hitchcock was active/lived in Hawaii, California.  David Hitchcock is known for island-volcanic-coastal landscape painting.

David Howard Hitchcock

Biography from the Archives of askART

Long regarded as one of the most important interpreters of the Hawaiian landscape, David Howard Hitchcock had a lengthy and prolific career, spanning more than sixty years. His finest period as a landscapist was from about 1905 to 1930. In addition to his paintings of volcanoes, also Hitchcock became widely known for his large dioramas and other mural-size painting of island scenes. In the early 20th century, Hitchcock was arguably Hawaii's outstanding resident professional artist.

Born in Hilo, Hawaii, he was the first Hawaii-born painter to receive formal art training in Paris. D. Howard Hitchcock did numerous paintings of volcanoes, which circulated widely enough to attract tourist attention to the islands. He depicted the volcanoes in a range of appearances, from fiery beasts to calm renderings of the landscape. During extensive travels in the 1900s, Hitchcock explored the volcanic regions of the island of Hawaii. In July 1907 he made his first visit to the island of Kauai, becoming one of the earliest artists to paint the Waimea Canyon there. He also executed dramatic views of Hawaii for display on vessels of the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company.

Hitchcock was Jules Tavernier's disciple and principal student. He first met Tavernier in January 1885, when Tavernier made his initial trip to Hilo, Hawaii, along with landscape painter Joseph Strong (1852-1899). Hitchcock later recalled that this encounter determined the course of his life: "When I met (Tavernier) in Hilo with Joe Strong it was the first time I had ever seen a real artist. He looked at my first efforts in art and encouraged me in my work. Like a parasite I followed Tavernier and Strong to Kilauea to watch them at their painting."

Hitchcock studied drawing while a student at Punahau School in Honolulu, and received minimal instruction in painting while a student at Oberlin College in Ohio. Encouraged by Tavernier, pursued a year of study at the California School of Design with Virgil Williams in San Francisco from 1885-1886. Upon his return to Hawaii, Hitchcock opened a studio in Hilo and, later, one in Honolulu, near that of Tavernier.

Despite their friendship, Hitchcock and Tavernier occasionally became rivals, particularly in their production of the ever-popular volcano pictures. Tavernier, a frequent visitor to Hitchcock's studio, more than once began a sketch and then abandoned it with the words' 'finish that for me' a suggestion that in one case caused a tantrum that Hitchcock long remembered: 'One day someone asked me to copy a large painting of his called 'Sunset at Kilauea' which I did, and made an almost perfect copy. I signed it Jules Tavernier by H.H. and showed it to him. Greatly to my surprise he was quite furious and went off in a rage'.

Hitchcock, along with Charles Furneaux (1835-1913) and Jules Tavernier (1844-1889), were artists of much fascination to the public who visited their studios and watched closely their works-in-progress. Later this threesome was colloquially named the Volcano School, and their works had great popularity. One of Hitchcock's volcano paintings, with strong raking sunlight and clouds of blue vapor and gas rising from the pit, was purchased by John D. Spreckels of San Francisco.

In 1893, Hitchcock returned to his native Hawaii after three years of study at the Academy Julian in Paris and in New York. Interest in painting in Hawaii was revived in 1894 with his return and the founding that year of the Kilohana Art League, the first association formed specifically to encourage artists and to sponsor exhibitions of their work. Hitchcock was the driving force behind the club for most of its twenty-year existence, and was made president, a position he retained for much of that time. The first critical notice of his paintings appeared in June 1894 on the occasion of an exhibition of the Kilohana Art League. The artist was called a 'promising young painter, in the first moments of his return from France'. Hitchcock's new 'charming scenes' in a 'high key' were said to show both 'crispness and freshness' the Pacific Commercial Advertiser reviewer enthused. 'He has given us in a style peculiarly his own, some of the most subtle and brilliant effects of tropical light. There is a distinct individuality or manner in his work which in so young and artist should promise a development of style which may eventually be called his own. It is pleasing to see him strike out boldly in the treatment of scenes of his native country."

Hitchcock produced many plein-air studies, many of them small enough to fit into his paint box, such as his work 'Milolii, Hawaii, Looking South (1925), and he retained many of them for future studio use. In 1919, he helped establish the Honolulu Art Society, to support the efforts of local artists. In the late 1920s, after exposure to contemporary work in New York and Hawaii, Hitchcock attempted to modernize his treatment of the landscape. His 'new' approach was not successful, and he soon reverted to what he once described as a 'conservative-impressionistic' style.

His paintings were presented at the Alaska-Yukon Exposition in Seattle in 1907. His 15 foot 'Hanalei Bay' was exhibited as part of Hawaii's exhibit at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Diego in 1915,. In his later years, Hitchcock taught painting at Punahou School. His daughter, Helen, became an artist as well. In 1936, in honor of his seventyfifth birthday, Hitchcock was given a retrospective exhibition at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. He was also a member of the Salmagundi Club. Hitchcock died in Honolulu in 1943.

David D. Forbes, 'Encounters with Paradise'
William H. Gerdts, 'Art Across America'.
In 1910, Hawaii artist and outdoorsman Hitchcock discovered Scouting in California, and brought it home to Hawaii. Within months of returning home, Mr. Hitchcock set up Hawaii's first local troop - Scout Troop #1, the famed Rainbow Patrol sponsored by Punahou School and still in existence today. Local community leaders quickly became involved in giving Scouting life in Hawaii. Because of this early community support Scouting was quickly organized and grew. And because of those early community leaders Scouting established a deeply rooted heritage in Hawaii that is beyond comparison.

"American Art Review", June 2001

Biography from the Archives of askART
Born in Hilo, Hawaii on May 15, 1861. During 1885 Hitchcock was a pupil of Virgil Williams at the School of Design in San Francisco. After returning to the Islands, he studied for four years with Jules Tavernier. He continued at the NAD for one year and in Paris at Académie Julian (1891-93). He had studios in Hilo and later Honolulu where he was a leader in the budding art scene. He made extended trips to the mainland and always spent time with old friends in San Francisco. Hitchcock died in war-torn Honolulu on Jan. 1, 1943. He is today one of Hawaii's most revered early artists. Member: Kilohana Art League; Salmagundi Club (NYC); Honolulu AA. Exh: Paris Salon, 1893; Gump's (SF); Alaska-Yukon Expo (Seattle), 1907; St Francis Hotel (SF), 1912 (solo); Panama-Calif. Expo (San Diego), 1915; Honolulu Academy of Arts, 1936 (retrospective); GGIE, 1939; NY World's Fair, 1939. In: Honolulu Academy of Arts; Boston Museum; Oakland Museum; Bishop Museum (Honolulu).

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
American Art Annual 1933; Who's Who in American Art 1936-41; Encounters with Paradise.

Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from Douglas Frazer Fine Art, Ltd.
The first native-born artist of any prominence in Hawaii, D. Howard Hitchcock was born in Hilo in 1861. A landscape painter famous for large dioramas and mural-sized paintings, he also worked as a sometime sculptor and illustrator.

Hitchcock studied drawing as a student at Punahou School, but had little art training in college so spent a year at the California School of Design in San Francisco with Virgil Williams from 1885-86. Returning to Hawaii, he accompanied Jules Tavernier and Joseph Strong on a painting trip to the Kilauea volcano. This experience inspired a lifelong mentoring relationship with Tavernier and a long-term interest in painting volcanos.

Feeling the need for further art education, Hitchcock left for Paris in 1890 where he studied at the Julian Academy for three years.

Upon his return to Hawaii, Hitchcock settled in Honolulu, but he frequently went home to Hilo, and had studios in both places. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he traveled to and painted all the islands.

By the early 20th century Hitchcock stood out as one of Hawaii's most famous artists and promoter of the arts. In 1894 he helped to found the Kilohana Art League, an organization devoted to exhibiting local artists' works. Similarly, in 1919, he helped to establish the Honolulu Art Society, an association with much the same purpose. He was a frequent exhibitor of both groups, and president of the latter for many years.

Known especially for his landscapes, Hitchcock was particularly skilled in his use of light, and in his detailed vegetation. He preferred long, horizontal configurations, and along with several colleagues did a series of 30 foot dioramas illustrating the seven scenic wonders of Hawaii for the Pan Pacific Carnival in 1917. He also painted a 15 foot Hanalei Bay for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915.

In the 1920s Hitchcock tried to update his style, but without success, so he returned to his former modes of painting. In later life, he taught private students and at Punahou School. His daughter, Helen, became an artist as well. Hitchcock died on New Year's Day in 1943 in Honolulu.

Sources include: WWAA; Forbes: Encounters With Paradise; Gerdts: Art Across America, vol 3; Hughes: Artists in California 1786-1940.

By Sarah Nelson

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About  David Howard Hitchcock

Born:  1861 - Hilo, Hawaii
Died:   1943 - Honolulu, Hawaii
Known for:  island-volcanic-coastal landscape painting

Essays referring to
David Howard Hitchcock

Artists who painted Hawaii