“Littoral: John Hubbard in Context” Offers Unique Interpretations of Landscape

American and English coasts inspire new exhibit at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery.

john hubbard
John Hubbard's oil work "Sea into Sky."
May 20, 2013

By Julyssa Lopez

Artist John Hubbard is influenced by overlapping areas where sea and land coexist. This is the dominant theme of “Littoral: John Hubbard in Context,” featured at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery. The show includes scenes inspired by Mr. Hubbard’s visit to the Maine coast and his current residence in West Dorset in England, where he has lived for decades. Much like the way the artist examines spaces where landscapes intersect, the exhibit explores the connection between where an artist is from and where he draws inspiration.

“Littoral: John Hubbard in Context” opened on May 15 with a reception in which art scholar and writer Stephen May provided remarks and led a discussion about the exhibit.  The artist was scheduled to attend, but postponed his visit due to illness. Dr. Luther Brady, who is a longtime friend of Mr. Hubbard’s and loaned a painting for the exhibit, also attended the reception with Friends of the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery and invited guests.

Director of the Brady Art Gallery Lenore Miller visited Mr. Hubbard’s Dorset studio in 2012 and noted the ubiquitous experience of artists traveling from their homes to seek inspiration from new landscapes, particularly American-born artists in Europe. For this show, she found affinities for Mr. Hubbard’s work with artworks by Winslow Homer, William Trost Richards, and Thomas Moran.  Homer and Richards were artists whose visits to the UK became central to their artistic growth.   

“What makes an artist English or American is in the eye of the beholder,” Ms. Miller said. “Artists tend to absorb the landscapes they observe.”

In oils and charcoals inspired by abstract expressionism, Mr. Hubbard captures both tranquil and temperamental sides of coastal scenes. In softer oils, Mr. Hubbard explores the coolness of Porthmeor Beach in St. Ives. He evokes the reflection of light on rushing waters in pieces like “Luminous Water” and “Emerging Yellow,” characterized by warm golden tones atop bursting blues and greens.

Hubbard has observed how the affinity with Chinese and Japanese art and philosophy is, “just as applicable now as it was fifty years ago. That emphasis on life and movement in art leads directly to the fascination I’ve long had with seacoasts, the mixture of sky, sea and land,” noted Simon Martin in a catalogue essay for the exhibit. Fluidity and the movement of water are clear in ‘Wave Swallowing a Stone’ and ‘Chesil No. 2,’ charcoals that display this fondness for “felt space rather than observed space,” Mr. Martin wrote.  The muted tones conjure darker, moodier days in seaside towns, suggestive of shadows and overcast weather. They also serve to show Mr. Hubbard’s interpretations of similar subject matter through different mediums.

 “When Hubbard works on paper, with charcoal or oils, a direct and fresh experience of the place where sea meets shore is offered to the viewer,” Ms. Miller said.

The show will be open to the public through June 28.