Editor's note: The following 1996 essay was published on August 13, 2004 in Resource Library with permission of Thomas Daives, New Canaan, CT. If you have questions or comments regarding the essay please contact Mr. Daives through the Rockport Art Association, or by writing to the author at 58 Beacon Hill Lane, New Canaan, CT, 06480.


A. T. Hibbard, N.A.

by Thomas Davies


The twenty five year old man stood at street level, looking up-at an imposing studio gallery with a sign out front reading Legendsea Gallery, Aldro T. Hibbard N.A. The young man had been wandering about the quaint artists' town of Rockport, Mass. for the better part of a day, stopping in the galleries and for the most part, talking with the artists themselves. It was refreshing, even exhilarating. These artists, young and old, were open, approachable, even "regular people." The young man found an eerie attraction to the town and the apparent life style of the artists, seemingly carefree, yet disciplined, not accountable to bosses or organizations, yet required to earn a living in a commercial world, and always anxious to talk about their art, and your views. As the day progressed, the young man repeatedly heard about "Hibbard," and the odd first name "Aldro". He didn't have a streetfront gallery any longer, but he was accessible. "Go visit him," was suggested repeatedly. The young man knocked on the studio door, and Mr. Hibbard himself answered, baseball hat on his head, gray hair, and noticeably sparkling eyes.

The year was 1965, Aldro Hibbard was 79 years old. The young man was me, the writer. I remember three things from that first encounter with the region's reigning dean of landscape painting. First, he looked you straight in the face, not threatening, but direct and making eye contact. Second, when he shook hands, you knew you were in for an encounter. He squeezed hard and invited you to squeeze back, no flinching and no backing down. Third, after exchanging a comment or two, the conversation quickly came to baseball. He wasn't avoiding the subject of art, or his life's work, but he surely wanted to talk baseball. That might have been my last meeting with the man if I had not played the National pastime myself; I wasn't an artist so I guess if I had not been a ball player either, it would have been all over.

A short time later, I had the opportunity to visit Rockport again. accompanied by my father. I had communicated my enthusiasm and excitement about the area called Cape Ann. My folks decided to visit the region and "do the galleries" with me. My father's interest was very genuine. As a young man he attended Krause School of Fine Arts at Syracuse for two years before leaving for family reasons. His life now was in the commercial world as was mine but his interest in art was keen and he had been an avid reader in later years. The Hibbard studio visit was to be the highlight of the day. Sure enough, there the master of snowpainting was moving about his studio with incredible vigor. After the "eye contact" and the "hand shake" the casual but genuinely interested conversation started. I was excited. and anxious for my father to be as impressed, if not fascinated by Mr. Hibbard as I was. What I noticed, actually sensed, was disconcerting. My father did not seem to be "paying attention", his mind and thoughts were clearly elsewhere. Disrespectful, if not rude, I thought to myself; this is not like him. Finally, that distant expression on my father's face snapped into instant recognition and a flood of emotions and memories were evident. "Mr. Hibbard," my father said, "you don't know this, but in 1927, as a poor struggling art student, carrying three jobs to get a college education, I discovered a wonderful image of a New England village in winter. I had no business buying that print, but I did it anyway. Back in the studio I carefully covered the surface of the print with varnish and pressed a clean canvas into the wet varnish, removing it so that when it dried, there was the impression of a real oil painting on canvas. That became my only wall decoration and connection with real art, for many many years. That print was signed A.T. Hibbard. It is indeed an honor to meet you." The conversation flowed, the moment was electric, it culminated in my Dad buying a large, wonderful snowscape entitled Snow Mantle, which still remains in our family to this day.

The year 1996 is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Rockport Art Association in Rockport, on the tip of Cape Ann Massachusetts. This very small stretch of land about 35 miles north of Boston has been, along with Gloucester, Annisquam and Lanesville, the full or part time home for many many famous American artists, dating back to Fitz Hugh Lane and including such luminaries as Winslow Homer, John Twachtman, Frank Duveneck, John Sloan and Edward Hopper. But none of these American icons has been so closely, and intimately involved with this region, over their lifetime, and so influential in generating a unifying "look" to Cape Ann painting as Aldro T. Hibbard, the founder and driving force behind the Rockport Art Association. Honoring Hibbard's long time contribution to American Art and the region and in celebration of its 75th Anniversary, the R.A.A. is mounting the most comprehensive exhibition of Aldro T. Hibbard's work ever assembled. This exhibition runs from Sept. 29 to the end of October.



Aldro Hibbard was born in 1886 in Falmouth Cape Cod. His mother, Katherine was a piano teacher and tried unsuccessfully to teach him the joys of Bach and Beethoven. Aldro preferred to play the National sport, Baseball. Indeed, baseball played a strong influence on him throughout his life. He loved the game, almost as much as he loved painting. Hibbard's; biographer, John Cooley noted that; "for Hibb "A" is for Art and "B" is for Baseball, here endith the alphabet."[1] However, years later the alphabet was extended to add "N.A." for National Academician.

At age 5 the Hibbard family moved to the Roxbury section of Boston and later to Dorchester Mass. in the mid 1890's. For Hibbard, growing up was lots of baseball played in cow pastures, being chased by farmers and, of course, many summers of hard work in Pocasset back on the Cape. Aldro delivered laundry, fished, dragged for scallops and shucked shellfish ... and played lots of baseball. While at Dorchester H.S., he was Captain of the team for four years. The height of his career came in 1906 when Captain Hibbard stood along side the mayor of Boston in his high silk hat and frock coat, on the pitcher's mound at Dunbar Avenue field. John F. Fitzgerald, the celebrated "Honey Fitz" , threw in the first ball to start the game. Later that senior year the same "Honey Fitz" was to hand Aldro Hibbard his high school diploma upon graduation; along with his Dorchester H.S. classmate Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald, later wife of Joseph P. and mother of John F. Kennedy.

In spite of the attention the local sports writers were giving the young centerfielder, by the end of high school Aldro knew he wanted to pursue a career as an artist. He received instruction from public school art teachers, which in later years he was always quick to acknowledge and praise, but otherwise, he was largely self-taught up to this point. He believed in repetition and hard work. "If his early drawings are only copies, with little suggestion of, or effort at, originality, it is because he sensed that the first concern of a painter must be the basic fundamentals, drawing and design. Interpretation could come later. It did."[2] While in high school he accumulated enough work to hold summer art shows at Pocasset's Baptist Church, and sold many works from $10 to $15 a piece. His first painting sold was, in fact bought by his 9th grade art teacher. Another great artist, four years Hibbard's senior made a similar choice between brush or bat, shortstop George Bellows.

After graduating, Aldro Hibbard entered Massachusetts Normal Art School in Boston. Founded in 1873, this was the first school of its kind in the U.S. It was founded on the principles of hard work, extensive drawing, composition, color and anatomy. One of Hibbard's notable instructors was the great Boston figure painter Joseph De Camp who said of Hibbard's extraordinary ability at classical figure painting, "You've got a lot of stuff, but you must make believe you're working. Don't let anybody see how easy it comes. And don't fool yourself. Work, work, work."[3] Hibbard encountered other important instructors including Ernest Majors and Cyrus Dallin who taught sculpture. Also Hibbard's extraordinary ability to organize others began to emerge in art school, an ability that- became abundantly clear in later life. He arranged auctions of students' work to raise money for; what else, to organize the first artists' baseball team. Hibbard amazed his instructors, he graduated in three years, completing a four year program.

Years later he would look back on his learning experience at Normal and stress the value of discipline and association with other fellow art students; one's peers. He would say with uncanny insight "... all kids like to draw. But that's only a desire to imitate. You must prove you want to be an artist by studying and by accepting discipline. In art school you learn from your fellow students. The Professors talk shop eternally. You are in the world of art. This environment and the lessons it teaches aren't available through private lessons. Don't forget that being an artist isn't just painting what you see; it's interpreting what you see. Otherwise better study photography."[4] Practical observation from a very practical and realistic New Englander.


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About the author:

In an August 2004 transmittal letter to Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Mr. Davies provided insights into his extensive interest in representational American art, and that of his son, Kristian Davies.

Thomas Davies lived in Hong Kong with his family in 1974-77 and "participated in several Bi-Centennial celebrations, one of which was organizing an exhibition of American art from our collection." Mr. Davies pioneered the exhibition of American art in that city which at that time had "virtually no knowledge of Western art, especially American representational art." His art was presented at an exhibition titled "Art in America: 1825-1975" held at the City Hall Exhibition Center from October 24 through November 2, 1975. The show was accompanied by an illustrated 51-page catalogue. In the Volume III, Number 3 May-June 1976 issue of American Art Review, he wrote an article about the Hong Kong exhibition.

In 1994, Mr. Davies wrote an article titled Sharing Your Paintings -- or --"It's Better Than Selling Hot Dogs", describing his experience of organizing an art exhibition held at King Low-Heywood Thomas School in Stamford, CT. KLHT is an independent, college preparatory school serving students from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. The article published in Resource Library contains the author's original unedited text. A condensed version of the article appeared in American Art Review, Volume VI, Number 4, August-September 1994, p. 140-145. Mr. Davies wrote to Resource Libary that the KLHT exhibition "covered a unique experience I had of organizing an exhibition of paintings...integrating the whole exercise into a high school program. After I did it I thought it would make a good story and ideally encourage other to do the same."

In 1996, Mr. Davies was asked by the Rockport Art Association to write an essay in connection with the first major retrospective on Aldro Hibbard, held September 28 through October 27, 1996 at the Association's galleries. Mr. Davies says, "I tried to take a distinctively different approach, with the support and approval of his [Hibbard's] daughter." The A. T. Hibbard, N.A. article published in Resource Libary contains the author's original unedited text. A condensed version of the article appeared in American Art Review, Volume VIII, Number 4, September - October 1996, p. 142-149.

Mr. Davies' son, Kristian Davies, wrote a hardcover book in 2001 titled "Artists of Cape Ann; A 150 Year Tradition," ISBN 1-885435-18-5, published by Twin Lights Publishers, Inc.[1] Artists of Cape Ann: A 150 Year Tradition, an exhibition featuring some of the paintings in the above book, but also several not included in the book, was held in 2003 at the Lyme Art Association. Kristian Davies later wrote an article for the exhibition which was published in American Art Review, Volume XV, Number 1 January-February 2003. Art & Antiques published an essay by Kristian Davies titled "Raised on Art" in its Summer 2002 issue and another titled "Family Tradition" in the June 2003 issue.

1. Copies of the book may be obtained {as of August 2004) by forwarding $29.95 plus a $4.50 mail and handling fee to Thomas Davies, 58 Beacon Hill Lane, New Canaan, Ct 06480.

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