Bourbon County native’s works of art now on display
Historic Paris-Bourbon County’s Hopewell Museum offers an art exhibit worthy of display in any art museum in any major city. The exhibition showcases the works of Bourbon County native, Hattie Hutchcraft Hill (1847-1921). Her painting began in 1878 while earning a living as a teacher, continuing in 1888 with study at the Académie Julian in Paris, France and upon her return to Bourbon County, amid financial difficulties, in 1899.
Paintings within the exhibit illustrate her different styles of artwork, including impressionist, outdoor scenes, portrait and still-life on oil and watercolor. These styles can be attributed to her zealous study under nine different artists while at Académie Julian. Hill’s breakout moment came when her 6 feet 11-inch life-size portrait of Bourbon County philanthropist William Garth hung in the Kentucky Building at the World’s Columbian Exposition at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. This portrait hangs today in the Bourbon County Courthouse.
Hill was an accomplished artist and contemporary with actress Sarah Bernhardt, suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but the late 19th century was a man’s world. Women of that era were “allowed” to express themselves in art but found themselves relegated to the domestic and decorative arts, but painting was a man’s profession. She struggled financially and finally returned to Bourbon County and painted decorative plates, note cards, and even a friend’s prized chickens to support herself.
The 44 paintings all have a Bourbon County connection, curated by Margaret Layton. Layton, who also curated a smaller exhibit 10 years ago, spent over a year researching and compiling Hutchcraft’s story while “tracking down” the works of art and obtaining permission for their exhibition. An informational card details the painting and includes tidbits of local color.
One such example is a still life of a large vase of poppies painted as a wedding gift to the parents of Bull Hancock.
Layton commented on the importance of Hattie Hutchcraft Hill’s art by saying “Her work was appreciated and purchased by an international group of discerning collectors but, like most women artists at the beginning of the 20th century, her work was not widely recognized during her life. Family and friends inherited many of her works upon her death. I found her story poignant and her accomplishments admirable.”
The exhibition will remain open until September 29, 2019. For additional information visit Hopewell Museum.
Contributed by Toni W. Riley. Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Pennyrile Electric member.