Aldro Thompson Hibbard (1886–1972)
Aldro Thomspon Hibbard spent most of his life in Massachusetts, where he painted striking images of the New England coastline. Over the course of his long career, Hibbard created an impressive body of work featuring landscapes, seascapes, and snow scenes. Rendered in a lively, Impressionist style, Hibbard’s paintings are structured by his deep-seated interest in the interplay of light and shadow, which he translated through vivid texture and animated brushwork. Before Hibbard’s death in 1972, his biographer, John L. Cooley, described the picturesque beauty that Hibbard mined from the American landscape:
Many of his pictures record vanished Americana. His rich laboratory is Nature, and he has painted her, not photographically but as she spoke to him…Beauty—realistic beauty—has been Hibbard’s creed, although Yankee-like, he hesitated to proclaim it.
What Cooley illuminates is the synthesis of observation and idealization that informed Hibbard’s work. Despite their dazzling surfaces, Hibbard’s paintings were firmly rooted in his experience of the natural world. Hibbard drew inspiration directly from nature, moving throughout New England to continually refresh his visual inventory.
Hibbard gave up a promising career as a professional baseball player to pursue a life as an artist and instructor. He trained at the Massachusetts Normal Art School and the Boston Museum School, where he studied alongside Frank Benson, Edmund Tarbell, and Joseph De Camp. His talent earned him a traveling scholarship from the Boston school, which allowed him to study the art of the European Impressionists firsthand. Upon his return, Hibbard devoted his effort to turning Rockport, Massachusetts into a thriving independent art center. He opened the Rockport Summer School of Drawing and Painting in 1920, which was renamed the Hibbard School of Painting in his honor. He also established the Rockport Art Association, which attracted such prominent artists as Charles and Emile Gruppe, Max Kuehne, and William M. Paxton.
Hibbard exhibited at Legendsea Studios, his gallery in Rockport, as well as the Corcoran Gallery Biennial, the Boston Art Club, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the American Artists Professional League. He received several honors during his lifetime, including the Hallgarten Prize from the National Academy of Design, which later named him an Academician, and gold medals from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the American Artists Professional League. Today, his work can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, and the National Gallery of Art.
John L. Cooley, A.T. Hibbard, N.A.: Artist in Two Worlds (Rockport, MA: Rockport Art Association, 1968), ii.