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 Robert Hugo Selby  (1909 - 1997)

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Lived/Active: Indiana/Texas      Known for: landscape painting, commercial art

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Ad Code: 3
Robert Selby
from Auction House Records.
Forsyth's Porch
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following biography was written and submitted by Susan Sklar, daughter of the artist:


American artist Robert Selby was born on January 31, 1909 in the small southwestern Indiana town of Owensville. He showed early talent in fine art and after graduating from Owensville High School, he became a scholarship student at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis from which he received his diploma in 1930. During his years of study at John Herron he worked under the direction of Paul Hadley, Clifton Wheeler and Hoosier Group Artist William Forsyth.

In the summer of 1930, he was awarded a Summer Study Scholarship to the Charles Hawthorne Cape School in Provincetown, Massachusetts. 1930 also saw the beginning of Selby’s professional exhibition career with participation in the annual John Herron Indiana Artist’s Exhibition, followed in 1931 with entries in the annual Hoosier Salon Exhibition. In 1940 he married William Forsyth’s youngest daughter Evelyn. They had one daughter Susan.

Selby earned his living as a working commercial artist, first in the Advertising Department of L.S. Ayres in Indianapolis, and after a move to New Jersey in 1959, as an artist and assistant art director of the Advertising Department of Hahne and Company in Newark.  However, he always maintained his painting career and continued to exhibit throughout the United States, especially in Indiana. Because he had no official studio space either in Indiana or New Jersey, the majority of his work during the early and middle parts of his life was done on location or out in his own backyard where he set up his easel on every available weekend in good weather.

After his retirement in 1975 Robert and Evelyn moved to Austin, Texas where they shared a home and finally a real studio with Evelyn’s older sister artist Constance Forsyth. Before his death on February 26, 1997 in Austin, his retirement years were most productive artistically. Selby painted widely across the central Texas Hill Country, as well as on trips to the Texas coast, over to Louisiana on visits to his daughter, and many trips back to Indiana. For a number of years during this period he taught continuing education painting classes for the Dougherty Arts Center in Austin. Although he worked in both oil and watercolor throughout his life, during his Indiana and New Jersey years he primarily painted in oil on board, while in his final years in Texas his work consisted mainly of watercolors. Ever the plein-aire painter, he always had his paint box in the back of his car for easy access when he traveled should a tempting scene present itself.

Throughout his life Selby’s work was represented in numerous museum and juried shows across the United States. These exhibitions included Indiana Art Association Annuals, over fifty years in the Hoosier Salon Annuals in both Chicago and Indianapolis;  annual Indiana State Fair; Cincinnati Museum; Charlotte Museum in North Carolina; Montclair Museum in Montclair, New Jersey; Hunterdon Art Center in Clinton, New Jersey; and East Orange Art Association in East Orange, New Jersey.

His work was featured in one man shows at the John Herron Art Museum; Madison Public Library in Madison, New Jersey; various small venues in Austin, Texas; and in 1992, a one-man show at the Evansville Museum of Art and Science in Evansville, Indiana.

Selby received numerous awards for work in watercolor and oil in both Indiana and New Jersey including the Booth Tarkington prize in the 41st Indiana Artists Exhibition in 1949, the Jessie Mae Holcomb Memorial award for oil painting on at least three separate occasions at the Hoosier Salon, and the award for Outstanding Work in Oil of the Exhibition at the Hoosier Salon in 1958.

The following year his oil painting, Bayou Beauty, was selected to represent the state of Indiana at the ART USA 59 Exhibit at the Coliseum in New York City. Also, in the late 1950’s he was commissioned to design and paint a triptych alter piece for St. Matthews Episcopal Church in Indianapolis.

His work is represented in many private and public collections including Madison Public Library in Madison, New Jersey; Frank Dailey Collection at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana; Fort Wayne Permanent Collection in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Arthur S. Overby Memorial Collection housed at Typo Type House in Indianapolis, Indiana; Evansville Museum of Art and Science; Indianapolis Museum of Art; Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis; Irvington Historical Society Collection in Indianapolis; Indiana State Historical Society Collection in Indianapolis; and Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans.

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