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Frank Townsend Hutchens was the son of Hiram L. and Mary A. Hutchens of Canandaigua, New York, an upstate town in the Finger Lakes region twenty-five miles southeast of Rochester. Hutchens was educated locally at the Canandaigua Academy. In the early 1890s he studied art in New York City with Frank DuMond, George DeForest Brush and Irving Wiles, who were all instructors at the Art Students League. (It is likely that Hutchens was a student at the League, although his name does not appear in its student register.) Following a popular career trajectory, Hutchens went on to Paris to continue his art education. In 1895-96, he enrolled at the Academie Julian, a favorite school with Americans in the French capital. His teachers there, Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant (1845-1902) and Jean Paul Laurens (1838-1921), were both academic history and figure painters. He also studied at the Academie Colarossi, a less formal institution. Hutchens showed works at the Paris salon in 1896 and 1898. He also began to exhibit at home, sending a watercolor of a garden in Florence, Italy, to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1897 and an Italian scene to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1896-97. His Paris Salon works, judging by their titles, appear to have been genre works.
Hutchens returned to America sometime in the late 1890s. He married Mabel Reynolds in 1900. In the early years of the twentieth century, Hutchens undertook an energetic program of exhibiting his work at academy shows and commercial galleries. Beginning in 1905, his major venue was the National Academy of Design, New York, participating in the annual exhibitions of 1905-06, 1908, 1910-12, 1914, 1916-20, 1922-23, and 1930-31. Hutchens was a versatile painter in both oil and watercolor. He quickly moved away from genre to make a specialty of landscapes, but also developed a successful practice as a portrait painter. Hutchens cultivated a presence in the Midwest, exhibiting at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1897 and from 1905 to 1915. In 1912, he was featured in a one-man show at the John Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis, Indiana, entitled An Exhibition of Recent Paintings. In addition he showed in the Carnegie International (1905 and sporadically through 1930); at the Corcoran Museum of Art (1914, 1916, 1919, 1937); the Society of Independent Artists (1917); the Boston Art Club (1899, 1906, 1908); and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1986, 1906, 1909, 1922, 1926).
In 1908, Hutchens had a show at Fishel, Adler & Schwartz Gallery in New York where he showed genre paintings of Dutch and French subjects, including at least one pastel. According to the notice of the show in the New York Times (Dec. 19, 1908), he had also exhibited an oil painting at the International Exhibition of living Masters in Amsterdam in 1907, as well as the Royal Academy, London (1908). In 1916, Hutchens had an exhibition at the Reinhardt Galleries, New York which included paintings and sketches. In 1920, he showed twenty-one pictures at the Howard Young Gallery, New York. In connection with that show, the art critic for the New York Times described the artist as “an ingratiating interpreter of gentle scenes (Feb. 8, 1920, pg. SM5). In 1922, Hutchens exhibited at the Babcock Galleries, New York, a show which featured a noteworthy painting of breakfast on the porch of his Connecticut home. In 1923, Hutchens was listed as a member of the Board of Control of the Aquarellists, a society of watercolorists pledged to promote the medium. In 1930, Hutchens had a show of forty portraits and landscapes at the Yorke Gallery in New York.
Early in the new century, Hutchens and his wife moved to rural Connecticut where Hutchens became an early member of the Silvermine artists’ colony. In 1909, Hutchens purchased the so-called Old Mill for $12,500 at auction. He commissioned a restoration and renovation and used it for the rest of his life as studio and home. Hutchens thereafter showed regularly in Silvermine group shows as well as mounting exhibitions at his own scenic home, which he rechristened, the Red Mill. By 1931 Hutchens had begun to go to Taos, New Mexico, where he also maintained a residence. A circumstantial account of Hutchens’ travels can be pieced together from the titles of pictures he exhibited. In 1931, for example, he showed Taos pictures including figure studies of American Indians at his mill house in Connecticut.
By the 1930s, Hutchens was in his seventh decade. He continued to show in New York, sending Indian Drummer to the Allied Artists of America show in New York in 1932, and in the same year, exhibiting American Indian subjects at the Women’s City Club. Mabel Hutchens died in 1932. Hutchens continued to travel to New Mexico and Florida, while retaining his residence in Connecticut. In 1936, he participated in the group show at The Slivermine Guild of Artists and had a one-man show at his home and studio as well where he showed oils and watercolors ranging from the French Riviera and Africa to Taos and the West Coast. (New York Times, July 19, 1936, pg. X7).
Hutchens painted portraits throughout his career. In 1912, he produced an official portrait of Governor Charles Floyd (1861-1923, served 1907-09) of New Hampshire. Twenty years later he painted Patrick Jay Hurley, a member of the Choctaw Nation who served as Secretary of War from 1929 until 1933, and later as American Ambassador to New Zealand. Hurley had seen Hutchens’ work exhibited in Taos. The Florida portrait commissions took up the final years of the artist’s life.
Hutchens and his wife are buried in the Hutchens’ family plot in Woodlawn Cemetery in the artist’s native Canandaigua. The artist and his wife appear to have been childless, leaving no one to continue to call attention to his achievements. The time is ripe now, for a rediscovery of this creator of delight-filled landscapes and garden scenes.
MUSEUMS that include this artist in their collection. New Orleans Museum of Art ,
Syracuse University Art Collection, The Toledo Museum of Art, Butler Institute of American Art , Milwaukee Art Museum, The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts