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 Joseph Henry Hatfield  (1863 - 1928)

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts/Ontario / Canada      Known for: landscape, child genre and figure painting, paint business

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Joseph Henry Hatfield
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Joseph Henry Hatfield   (1863 – 1928)

At the turn of the century, Joseph Henry Hatfield was well known around Canton, Massachusetts, for both his paint and his paintings.  Not only was he a successful businessman with an art store and a paint  company known for high quality oils with vivid colors, he was also an accomplished artist.  

Although born in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, the family seems to have soon moved to Boston, Massachusetts where he grew up.  His early interest and training is unknown but beginning in 1889, Hatfield studied in Paris at the Academy Julian with Benjamin Constant, Henri-Lucien Doucet and Jules-Joseph Lefebvre.  In 1891 the artist exhibited a work titled Une Letter de Papa in the Paris Salon, which previewed the many genre scenes to come.  By 1892 the artist had returned to Boston, first exhibiting at the Boston Charity Mechanics' Association where he was awarded a silver medal.  He also exhibited at the Columbian Exposition (Chicago World's Fair) in 1893. Further exhibitions included the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art; the National Academy of Design, 1896 (Prize); the Boston Art Club, 1880 through 1902; and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904.  

He painted extensively during the first years after returning home and enjoyed painting landscapes, but was hardly known for them as he was trained as a figure painter.  One of the earliest exhibitions at the Art Club of Boston, was comprised of one hundred-forty canvases primarily of children whom he loved dearly.  

During one period later in life when he began to wonder about his life as a painter, he stated: “I was completely discouraged.  I said to myself, “You old fool, you can't paint any more than a cow.  You ought to give it  up.”  I did give it up.  I packed away my sketching material and decided to be a farmer.  The mood was on for two or three days.  One afternoon I was digging in the garden as hard as I know, in order to forget my disappointment with myself, when straightening up for a moment I saw a wonderful great cloud in the sky.  My heart went out to it.  “By jove,”  I said, “I've got to paint that cloud.”  I ran to my studio and got out my brushes and paint.  I made straight for a meadow that I know of, got over the stile and found just the point of view I wanted.  I painted like one mad.  I painted as if this were the last chance I would ever have.  For two hours the frenzy lasted until I was limp as a rag.  Gathering up my kit, I went home, not daring to look at the picture.  I put it in the studio and went to bed.  Next morning I went down and said, “I guess I'll take a peek.”  I went in trembling, and turned it around where I could see it.  Then I saw I had got “a hummer.”

Becoming discouraged by the quality of paints he had been using, around 1896 Hatfield began seriously experimenting with color pigments.  He eventually stopped painting and devoted the last twenty years of his life to developing and manufacturing colors that would be pure and permanent.  The business was begun in Canton, Massachusetts and it was possible to obtain a  copy of a pamphlet Color For Art Sake by sending a two cent stamp and request to J.H Hatfield, Canton Junction, Massachusetts.  As the business grew, eventually a retail store was opened, Hatfield's Color Shop in the  basement of the Hotel Ludlow, in Boston.

The exhibition pamphlet for an exhibit at the Canton Public Library in 1978 commented on the man and his work:  “His loved of nature was captured in his paintings and these fleeting moments are there to enjoy by all who see his art.  Joseph Henry Hatfield, a talented, concerned and loving man.  His fine paintings, quality paints and most of all his gentleness are remembered by the people of Canton.”

Submitted by Edward P. Bentley, Art Researcher, Greenville, Michigan

Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art
“Hatfield Paintings To Be Shown,” The Canton Journal,  24 April, 1978  
Joseph Henry Hatfield  1863-1928, Exhibition pamphlet from the Canton Public Library, April, 1978.  

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