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 Erwin William (Miller) Hobby  (1892 - 1977)



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Lived/Active: Illinois      Known for: landscape painting, drawing, cartooning

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Erwin William (Miller) Hobby
An example of work by Erwin William (Miller) Hobby
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Erwin William Hobby was the stepson of Jesse Carl Hobby.  He was born Irwin William Miller on 18 December 1892 in Joliet, Illinois, a son of William and Cynthia Wooley Miller. William and Cynthia were married on 22 March 1892 in Edgar County, ILand had two children, Irwin and Lillian. William was employed as a switchman for the Chicago and Alton Railroad, according to 1890s Joliet city directories and the 1900 Federal census. Cynthia was listed as the widow of William in the 1902 Joliet City Directory. Cynthia married Jesse Carl Hobby about 1903, and they were living in Joliet during the 1910 census, where Irwin Miller and his sister Lillian R. Miller were listed as his stepchildren. Jesse was employed as a "sign writer, shop owner" and Irwin as a "paint mixer, paint store". Jesse's occupation was reported as "artist" in city directories in the 1890s and early 1900s and the 1900 census. His occupation was reported as sign maker from about 1910 onwards.    

Irwin used the last name of Hobby after about 1912. No record of adoption has been found, so he may have legally changed his name to Hobby. He eventually changed the spelling of his first name from Irwin to Erwin by the 1920s and used that spelling for the rest of his life. His occupation from 1912 onwards was given as painter in city directories and the 1920 and 1930 censuses, though in his 1917 WWI Draft Registration record, his occupation was listed as sheet metal worker for Farrel, Kemp and Guske in Joliet. His marital status was listed as single.

From 1925 to 1953 Erwin's occupation was given as "foreman" in Joliet city directories. In 1930 he was working as a painter for an "oil company" and his WWII draft registration listed his employer as The Texas Company in Lockport, Will County, IL. Erwin married Mary Slachetka on 14 July 1917 in Cook County, IL and they had two sons.    

Erwin Hobby and his stepfather are both listed with the Illinois Historical Art Project. Jesse Hobby is listed in Davenports Art Reference and Price Guide. Erwin Forbes taught art in Joliet. One of his students was Mary Lou Forbes, a Missouri artist who had this to say about Hobby in a 2007 newspaper interview:

"Forbes grew up on a farm south of Fayette and graduated from Central Methodist University in 1939. While working in the Joliet, Ill., school district and raising her four daughters, she met local painter Erwin Hobby, who turned her interest in art into a lifelong pursuit. She attended Hobby’s class every Saturday for six years until he died. She said those years profoundly influenced how she approaches her art."   

One of Erwin Hobby's paintings is held by the Joliet Public Library. It is a good sized oil and tempera landscape painting that won blue ribbons at four art exhibitions. Accompanying the painting was an informative biography for Hobby that is displayed on the Library's website:

"Erwin W. Hobby, a native of Joliet, born December 18, 1892, is well known to Joliet art lovers. Currently, Mr. Hobby is considered the dean of Joliet artists because of his many years devoted to painting and the fostering of the arts in the Joliet area. Mr. Hobby became interested in drafting and cartoon painting as a boy in school. In 1922 he began to paint seriously under the tutelage and direction of his father, who was also a commercial artist and a gifted scenic painter. Mr. Hobby openly admits to a rather small amount of formal training but it has not hampered his ability to win awards at numerous art shows nor has he lacked for interested people who want copies of his work in their home."

 "Mr. Hobby is a member of the Joliet Artists' League, for which he has served as president three separate terms. He is also a member of the Aurora Art League, the Palette and Chisel Academy (Club) of Chicago, and the Illinois Valley League. He has exhibited at shows sponsored by these art groups and has had many one-man shows in and around the Joliet area. Mr. Hobby works mainly in tempera and some oil. Many of his works are done in intricate detail with a fine brush. Many paintings are done to scale as is this one. Perhaps he is most noted for his many autumn scenes, vivid in fall colors. He does not entirely confine his work to this one style but also paints in the “looser technique” so well known to the water color artists. In recent years Mr. Hobby has devoted himself to much volunteer work, especially at the Senior Citizens Center of Will County where he teaches several classes in painting techniques. He has also given generously of his time to many civic and service clubs in putting on a painting demonstration and then donating the finished picture to the club for a door prize or for some other useful purpose. (Compiled April 1, 1970)"   

Erwin Hobby died on 1 May 1977 in Joliet, IL.  Mary Hobby was born on 13 January 1894 and died in July 1974 in Joliet.

Researched, written and submitted by Kevin Daniel, University of Illinois graduate student of Library and Information Science with a focus on art Cataloging.

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