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From Belgium to the Ballet: The Versatile landscape of H. Theodore Hallman Sr. (1904-1999)


H. Theodore Hallman Sr. (1904-1999) grew up in Milford Square, Bucks County, Pennsylvania and spent his life drawing, painting, and raising his family in the Souderton region.  In high school he studied with Walter Baum in Sellersville, learning how to capture lush landscapes en plein air  and the character of villages and farms.  He received his MFA in painting in 1948 from the Tyler School of Fine Arts, Temple University, in addition to studying illustration with N.C. Wyeth and Thornton Oakley.  Hallman spent six months traveling Europe in 1926 absorbing the culture, sketching, and experiencing the European tradition of art making.

Hallman's early career was focused on portrait and church commissions and as an illustrator for several publications including The Curtis Publishing Company in Philadelphia, St. Nicholas Magazine, New York, and the Presbyterian Publishing Company, Philadelphia. (right: H. Theodore Hallman Sr. (1904-1999), Rising Sun Bridge (detail), oil on canvas, Private Collection)

In addition to teaching private classes, Hallman was Chair of the West Chester University Art Department, West Chester, Pennsylvania, for 20 years where he also established a permanent collection.  His paintings, drawings, and illustrations can be found in numerous public and private collections including the James A. Michener Art Museum, The State Museum of Pennsylvania, the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College, and the Allentown Art Museum, all in Pennsylvania.

The exhibition brings together Hallman's early illustrations, pastels and watercolors from his European experience, portraits, grand church commissions, drawings from his interaction with the Philadelphia and New York City Ballet, and thematically presents the evolution of his subject matter from landscapes, still-lifes, and series such as the Three Kings, the Cathedral, and Rising Sun Bridge, a familiar regional landmark, to large, energetic abstractions.

While Hallman was a meticulous draftsman, as evidenced in the construction of his early illustrations and as a subtext to all of his compositions, it was his flair with color and vigorous brush technique that defined his mature years as a painter.  His illustrations,  portrait and church commissions were a means to make a living, especially at the start of his career, however, it was the regional landscape that inspired his work until his death at the age of 95 years.   The changing seasons, the fabric of historic villages and roadways, and his feel for perspective and the impact of light place Hallman in the school of Pennsylvania Impressionists.  His was prolific in his execution of canvases, many of which remain in family ownership, and his work merits closer study and evaluation in the context of the Pennsylvania school of painters.

The Berman Museum of Art has archived and holds a significant number of documents, sketchbooks, illustrations, drawings, watercolors, pastels, and oils that are available for review and study.

Article by Lisa Tremper Hanover, Director, Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College

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