Hobson Lafayette Pittman (1899-1972)

At its last meeting of the Museum's 2016/2017 year of art, the Acquisitions Committee was pleased to accept the gift of a painting from Helgi and Buck Shuford in honor of John and Sally Ross. The painting, In a Summer Garden by Hobson Pittman, was one of more than fifty works inspired by musical compositions. U.S. Senator Homer Capehart, a leader of the radio and phonograph industry, commissioned most of those fifty paintings in the 1940's, including the Pittman that now belongs to HMA.

The frame on the painting is by the renowned House of Heydenryk in Amsterdam, regarded in the mid 20th century as one of the world's most prestigious picture frame companies.

John Gordon Ross (born 1951), one of the honorees of the gift, is retiring at the end of the 2017/2018 concert season after serving Western Piedmont Symphony for 27 years as Music Director and Conductor.  The theme of the 2017/2018 WPS season will be "Celebrating John ... All Season Long" with musical masterworks and special events. (See more about WPS programming here, and more about Maestro Ross here.)

About the painter:

Hobson Lafayette Pittman (1899-1972), painter and teacher, is known for his interiors, still-lifes and dream-like landscapes full of ethereal figures, all painted in oils and watercolors. He was born in Edgecombe County, NC, where his father was a merchant and his mother was a devoutly religious woman who had a strong influence on her son. Both parents came from families long settled in eastern North Carolina. By the time he was sixteen, however, both his parents had died, and Pittman moved to Philadelphia to live with his married sister Juanita.

Pittman graduated from Pennsylvania State College (now Penn State University) and then taught briefly in a one-room school in Chester County, Pa. He moved on to study painting and art for a year at Carnegie Institute of Technology before making the first of many trips to Europe for study purposes, including in 1956 spending a year there on a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Along with developing and furthering his career as a painter inspired by memories of his North Csaolina childhood, in Philadelphia art circles Pittman was considered an unusually gifted teacher, with the rare talent of aiding a student's development without leaving his own imprint. He himself maintained that the best instruction an artist could have was observation of nature and study in museums. Pittman's teaching career began in 1931 as director of art at the Friends Central Day School near Philadelphia. He also taught at Pennsylvania State College and at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and in 1949 became a member of the faculty of the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. (Above, an unattributed photograph of Pittman in 1950 and a 1960 painting by the Philadelphia artist and Pittman contemporary Emlen Etting.)

During his lifetime, Pittman was the recipient of many honors, and his work was exhibited in group and one-man shows all over the United States. His paintings are in many major museums, including the Met and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, and the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill. HMA now owns two of Pittman's oils.

Following Pittman’s death his niece, Alyce Weeks Gordon Patrick, donated most of the works and many of his personal belongings to the town of Tarboro, N.C. (where Pittman first went to school), resulting in the creation of the Hobson Pittman Memorial Gallery located on the upper floor of the 1908 Blount-Bridgers House. The collection includes more than 400 pieces. (More about this gallery and about Pittman's life and work here.)

Post by Karin Borei, HMA Project Coordinator, writer and editor as needed, and HMA blogger since March 2015.