Dewitt Hardy: A Master of Watercolor

June 7 – October 5, 2019

DeWitt Hardy, House and Church, Dover NH, n.d., watercolor on paper, 15 x 13.5 inches, Bates College Museum of Art, Gift of Dr. Robert A. and Minna F. Johnson ’36, 1995

The watercolor medium is probably the most difficult form of graphic art to master. To a woman who once asked Edgar Degas what sort of watercolor set she should buy her son, Degas replied that it would be safer to buy him a revolver.

The history of American art has produced a number of extraordinary practitioners of the medium from John James Audubon and Winslow Homer to Sam Francis and Richard Diebenkorn. It will be clear through this exhibition that the Maine artist DeWitt Hardy’s name should be added to this list of masters in this medium.

DeWitt Hardy [1940-2017] was an accomplished draftsman and printmaker but his watercolors were his greatest achievement. Like Andrew Wyeth who made Chadds Ford Pennsylvania and Cushing, Maine the predominant subjects of his art, so DeWitt Hardy fashioned the coast of southern Maine, it’s interior woods and fields, houses and factories, and its denizens, into the subjects of his watercolors. Hardy incisively observed a Maine after the tourists had left. In complex and original compositions, Hardy shunned the predictable picturesque in favor of harsh but often beautiful realities.

This exhibition, covering a career of over fifty years, will contain an overview of Hardy’s evolution of style from the spare renderings of the early 1960’s through the more baroque colorful work of his later years. Throughout his career, Hardy made the ordinary extraordinary in his observations of the world around him. These challenging compositions make us see his landscapes, buildings, still lives, portraits, figures and nudes in a whole new light by his virtuoso command of the medium.

In over sixty loans from museums and distinguished private collections, the focused vision of DeWitt Hardy will be present in all the clarity, sensuality, honesty, and humanism that he brought to his art. Hardy captured the essence of Maine that those who live there or have visited will immediately recognize and will be an enlightening experience for those experiencing it for the first time through his masterful watercolors.

Robert Flynn Johnson, Guest Curator
Curator Emeritus
Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco