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 Alice Elizabeth Hugy  (1876 - 1971)

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Lived/Active: Minnesota / Switzerland      Known for: impressionist painting, commercial art

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information is from Judy Ransom, nee' Armstrong, grand daughter of the artist.

It is not widely or publicly known, but Alice Hugy became a mother on June 21, 1900, having given birth to my father, Arthur Eugene Armstrong (a fictitious name as she was unmarried).  The birth took place in New York City, and I have seen the birth certificate of my father, A.E. Armstrong. 

She retrieved him from unknown persons or institutions when he was approximately 6 or 7 years old and brought him to live in St. Paul with her and the rest of the family at 612 Cherokee Street, where I  spent several important years growing up under the influence of my parents and my "great aunt" Alice. 

I didn't know until I was a mother myself that she was, in fact, my grandmother.  I adored her and was tutored by her in art and literature, not to mention her socialist leanings. 

The house was built by the man that was called "Uncle" by my father, though he was likely the uncle of Alice, a man named Rene' Villatte.  Why Alice came to this country under the auspices of her aunt (Tante was her familial name, at least in the stories I was told) and uncle, and not her parents, I do not know.  What I do know is that when my parents and I went to Europe in 1953 (I was 16), we made a special effort to visit Solothurn and the Hugy family there.  When my father identified himself to them at their door, with my mother and me standing in the street, they did not invite us into their home.  We have speculated since that the story of his "illigitimate" birth had reached Switzerland, and they were shamed by his presence at their door and could not give him recognition.

I'm afraid I know little of her training and exhibitions, as I was so young when I lived at 612 Cherokee, there on the corner of King Street.  I do recall the mention of an organization, or was it a building, called "Mont Parnasse" where I knew she went often, though I don't know why.  There were paintings in various states of development stacked against every available wall, and I do remember sitting for her when I was around 5 or 6.   She did an oil of me then, and I was horrified that she had used a greenish color near my nose to depict a kind of shadow.  I don't think it would be inaccurate to say that Alice taught me to "see".  She simply pointed out colors and shapes and relationships to me that I use to this day, but was only recently re-reminded of their source.  Certainly neither my Mom nor my Dad had such tendencies toward the artistic, though I learned other important things from them. 

Alice taught me to look and to see and my gratitude to her is unending this Thanksgiving season. 

Judy Ransom, nee' Armstrong

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following is text from a review, dated July 18, 2007, and referencing the exhibition at the Minnesota Museum of American Art, "In Her Own Right: Minnesota's First Generation of Women Artists."

Alice Hugy (1876-1971)

Alice Hugy was born in Switzerland on Jan. 2, 1876. In 1882 she moved with her uncle and his family to St. Paul, Minnesota. She began her studies in art as a teenager, and pursued further training in New York where she lived for five years.

During her career, Hugy established the first art gallery in St. Paul, was involved with the St. Paul art colony, and associated with artists Paul Manship, Edward Brewer and Clement Haupers.

Having spent nearly her entire life in St. Paul, Hugy is a perennial favorite among St. Paul residents.

Her joyful and colorful still lifes celebrate the beauty of nature, while her modest landscapes of Lake Phalen and those overlooking the Mississippi River record scenes familiar to this day.

Hugy's philosophy of art was quoted in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on March 5, 1967.
"There is no delight greater than the delight of creating something -- something all your own which expresses you, apart from every other human being ... this satisfaction is what art does for the artist ... the expression of beauty in art is as important to a human experience as any other. ... Art is the response to the beauty and wonders of the world in which we live."

As a woman of the early 20th century, Hugy also enjoyed an unusually successful career as a commercial artist, producing work for companies such as the William Banning Agency, the New England Furniture Co., Hamm's and Grain Belt Beer breweries, as well as the Monarch Bicycle Manufacturing Co. of Chicago.

Hugy died on January 24, 1971, at the age of 95.

Source; MPRnews

This biography from the Archives of AskART:

ALICE HUGY (1876-1971)

Minnesota impressionist Alice Hügy came to America at the age of six from Solothurn, Switzerland where she had been born on 2 January 1876.  At St. Paul’s School of Fine Arts she learned the fundamentals of painting. 

In 1910 she exhibited for the first time at the Minnesota State Fair; later Hügy exhibited a watercolor entitled Trees and Snow at the Art Institute of Chicago (1928) and Flower Arrangement two years later at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  Meanwhile Hügy was active as a commercial artist, and she was involved in WPA projects during the Depression. 

Local newspapers reported how the strong-willed Hügy was critical of the degree of sentimentality in contemporary American art.  The St. Paul Pioneer Press (5 March 1967) quoted her definition of art: that “which is the response to the beauty and wonder of the world we live in.”  The Minnesota Historical Society’s Garden, painted around 1925, features the typical impressionist green and purple palette, expressive, spontaneous brushwork, and a decorative two-dimensional quality.  According to Coen (1996, p. 59), Hügy established St. Paul’s first art gallery and her persistence as an ecologist helped to save the city’s Cherokee Park from being developed commercially.

The painter died on 24 November 1971 in St. Paul.

Coen, Rena Neumann, Minnesota Impressionists. Afton, MN: Afton Historical Society Press, 1996, pp. 58-60.

Submitted by Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D.

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