Hilda Belcher

Hilda (left) and Martha Wood Belcher
Hilda (left) and Martha Wood Belcher

Time Period

1910-1940

Subject Categories

Arts

Notable Facts

Best known for her portraits, in oil and in watercolor. Born in Vermont, educated in New York City and Italy. Hilda painted all her life, and made her living from the sale of her work. Won many coveted prizes, including awards from the National Academy of Design, the Philadelphia Academy and the American Watercolor Society.

Personal Information

Date of Birth

1881

Date of Death

1963

Primary Residence

Pittsford

Ethnicity

Caucasian

Historical Significance

Hilda Belcher, daughter of Martha Wood and Stephen Belcher, was born in Pittsford, Vermont in 1881 and died in Pittsford in 1963 at age 82.

During her lifetime, Hilda Belcher was considered among the country's leading portrait and genre painters in both oil and in watercolor, profiling not only specific individuals, but also capturing the cultural milieu of their surroundings and their time. Born in Vermont, Hilda was educated in Newark, New Jersey (she was valedictorian of her high school class) and in New York City at the Chase School, and in Italy.

Like many of her contemporaries, Hilda found a mentor in Robert Henri, about whom she wrote, "He was merciless, but I began to see the light, worked like a dog, and came back to life." Hilda made her living from the sale of her work, selling illustrations and cartoons to magazines such as Harper's and Women's Home Companion and designing stain glass windows for her family's business. She was the recipient of many prizes and commissions, including the coveted "Strathmore Watercolor Prize," about which the New York Times wrote "Girl Painter Wins Prize from 692 Men Competitors." She lived in New York City and Savannah, Georgia, was the second woman elected to the National Academy of Design, and in 1936, the New York Times called her "one of the most distinguished women artists in America."

Travel was high on Hilda's agenda, always painting while she traveled, and of particular note wase her tour of Europe with her mother, shortly before the outbreak of World War I. When ill health forced her to settle in one place, she went to live with her brother in New Jersey, but continued to came home to the family home in Pittsford every summer, where her volumes of studies of her feline companions give witness to the humor and tenderness her family remembers to this day.

During her lifetime, Hilda Belcher's work was featured in one person exhibitions all over the country, and is in the permanent collections of many public art collections, including the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Loeb Art Center as Vassar College, and the Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont. Middlebury College awarded her an Honorary Degree, reflecting her conviction about herself, that she "always felt herself a thorough-going Vermonter."

Occupations

  • Artist

Education

  • The Chase School of Art, NYC, Art Student's League, NYC

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Michon, Heather K. A Beautiful Legacy of Art by Our Vermont Masters. Vermont Woman Newspaper. May 2007. Link

  • The Whipples, painting by Hilda Belcher and brief biography Link

  • Folder of information pertaining to Hilda Belcher

  • Hilda Belcher Link

  • Cohen, Janie. "Hilda Belcher: A Realist Rediscovered." American Art Review 6 (August-September 1994): 90-97, 159.

  • Michael Sherman, ed. "Martha Wood Belcher and Hilda Belcher Paintings at VHS." Vermont History News 44 (1993): 28-29.

Additional Images

"Portrait by Night - Preliminary Study"
"Go Down Moses"