Hilda Belcher in the Lobby Case
Hilda Belcher (1881-1963), one of the country’s leading portrait and genre painters in the early 20th century, was the second woman to be elected to the National Academy of Design. In 1935, Anne Miller Downes, novelist and reviewer for The New York Times, wrote that Hilda Belcher is “one of the most distinguished women artists in America” and that “her portraits are modern in the sense of being completely freed from the old slavery to photographic likeness. They are not colored photographs but works of art, studies which portray the character, the spirit, the individuality of the subject through the artist’s medium, composition, design and color.”
Belcher, a masterful watercolorist, came from a family of artists; her mother was an accomplished painter, and her father a stained-glass window designer. She studied at the Art Students League, the Chase School, and was one of the few female students to attend the New York School of Art. Through Robert Henri, the founder of the Ashcan School, she found her own distinctive style of realism.
The artist spent her life working in New York and Savannah. She was granted membership into the prestigious New York Water Color Club based on The Checkered Dress, an image depicting Georgia O’Keeffe. Throughout her career, Belcher won major prizes in national watercolor and painting competitions. Following the Strathmore and Beal prizes, she enjoyed significant publicity and financial security. She traveled to Europe, Mexico and returned to Savannah frequently. Upon her retirement, Belcher moved back to her family home in Pittsford, Vermont.
Old Sour Puss (Self Portrait), 1938
Charcoal on paper
19 x 12-3/8 inches