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 August William Hutaf  (1874 - 1942)

About: August William Hutaf


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Lived/Active: New Jersey      Known for: illustrator, genre-narrative, children

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Morning Exercises, Cream of Wheat ad illustration, 1910
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following biography is based on information provided June 2002 by Janet Scott, great niece of the artist and a resident of Prince Frederic, Maryland.

Born and died in Hoboken, New Jersey, August Hutaf painted with a huge hand, a hand as broad as a side of venison. Like many men of his stature, 6'4" and weighing more than three-hundred pounds, he displayed an amazing dexterity and grace. The work of Gus Hutaf testifies that he was one of those rare individuals who could charm and delight with his whimsical postcards or capture the breath of those lucky enough to have seen his serious oil paintings and pottery.

Gus and his wife, Lil, were childless but doted on their niece and nephew. Once when visiting Lil's brother, Gus was delighted to find his nephew, then three-years old, bundled up and playing in the snow. He sketched a picture of Chester and titled the picture "Little Jack Frost". Later Gus, who was an advertising executive and commercial artist, sent the picture to Jack Frost Sugar who has used the sketch as their logo ever since.

Gus loved children and kids are a reoccurring theme in many of his postcards. For instance the "Little Hayseeds" series (W.S. Heal c. 1907) shows country folk experiencing the city for the first time through the eyes of children. The "Blacktown Babies" series (Ullman c. 1907) follows a little Black boy and girl through the lazy days of summer, and Papa series (W.S. Heal c. 1907) has baby bringing Papa his hat, pipe and slippers. Evidence of Hutaf's amiable nature permeate the subject matter of his postcards which continue to have an enormous commercial appeal.

Though Hutaf was best known for this commercial artwork such as postcards, theatre programs, sheet music, book illustrations and magazine advertisements, serious collectors of fine art also collect his oil paintings, water colors, posters and pottery. Last year, 1999, two J.B. Owens Pottery 1903 missions pots by Hutaf sold for $3,500 and $5,500 respectively.

According to the Collector's Guide to Owens Pottery by Frank L. Hahn, Hutaf designed a line of mission pottery using the subdued colors and scenery of the lower California missions and encased the pots in stands made of wood to compliment the era's mission furniture.

In 1917, Hutaf painted a recruiting poster for the World War I Tank Corps, "Treat 'Em Rough, Join the Tanks," which shows a black cat bounding over tanks in a field of fire. The Tank Corps uses this poster as their logo to this day.

Not only was Gus Hutaf incredibly creative, he may also have been remarkably resourceful. Family lore has it that he invented the concept of painting lines down the middle of the street to direct traffic flow. The day of the St. Patrick Day Parade was fast approaching and, since the advent of the automobile, New York City was faced with the problem of containing or controlling the traffic without snarling the side streets in New York City. Gus suggested painting lines (green in honor of St. Patrick) down the center of the street and allowing traffic to flow in one direction and the parade to march by in the other. The rest, as they say, is history.

As an addendum, Janet Scott added: "He numbered among friends Christopher Morley, Ogden Nash, Robert Benchley so he must have been well connected and he was also a devoted family man. He lost all his money in the crash of '29 and never fully recovered, but some of his most interesting (not commercial) work was done after that.

In '38/'39 he painted a mural at the New York World's Fair. I have never been able to locate where it was or what it was for, but I have a picture of him on scaffolding painting it (it looks like the Statue of Liberty with gown blowing and people of other races gathered around). He was cartologist for Hoboken and did a wonderful map showing all the interesting and historic spots around town (I have the blueprint and a copy).

It was interesting that you ask for a list of museums having his artwork because I never thought that there might be things in a museum. He was affiliated with the Museum of Modern Art in New York, so I would assume that they would have some of his work.

P.S. My Grandmother told me the lines-down-the-center-of-the-road story often as a child and I have no doubt that the story is true.

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