As owner of the www.HarlanHubbard.com website, we receive frequent inquiries from people across the country wondering where they can view artwork by the late Harlan Hubbard of Trimble County, Ky. Aside from a few paintings that hang in public spaces, such as bank lobbies in Milton, Ky., and Bedford, Ky., the Trimble County Public Library and two churches in Milton, there are no public galleries in the Madison, Ind., area that continuously show them.
in southern Indiana as
part of Jeffersonville’s Steamboat Days
At the Arts Council of Southern Indiana – Pat Harrison Gallery:
• Sept. 26 - Nov. 1: “Harlan Hubbard: Plain Living, High Thinking – Part I.” Exhibit of Dr. Robert Canida’s collection in the Main Gallery. With opening reception Saturday, Oct. 11, from 1-4 p.m.
• Sept. 26 - Nov. 1: “Personal Flotation Devices: An Interactive Installation” Art exhibit by Susan Harrison in the Upstairs Gallery.
At the Vintage Fire Museum:
• Oct. 6 - Nov. 1: “Harlan Hubbard: Plain Living, High Thinking – Part II.” Exhibit of Hanover College collection. With lecture at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16, opening reception 6:30-7:30 p.m.
• Oct. 16: “How the River Shaped Our Lives. Lecture by Mark Wetherington of the Filson Club Historian at 5:30 p.m. Opening reception from 6:30 -7:30 p.m.
• Oct. 16: “Wonder: The Lives of Anna & Harlan Hubbard.” Documentary film by Morgan Atkinson showing in the education room.
• Oct. 15: Opening reception 5:30 - 7:30.
• Oct. 17 - Nov. 17: Paul Hassfurder exhibit.
• Oct. 22: “Anna and Harlan Hubbard, Keeping It Simple.” Images and lecture by Paul Hassfurder from 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the Library Auditorium.
• Oct. 21: “Wonder: The Lives of Anna & Harlan Hubbard.” Documentary film by Morgan Atkinson – lecture and film – showing in the education room from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
At the Jeffersonville
River Stage and City:
• Oct. 16 - 19: Steamboat Days – Jeffersonville – Artists, Exhibits and Music
• Oct. 18: Noon - 5 p.m.: Fiddle Fest – Music Competition
At Ashland Park in Clarksville:
• Oct. 18: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. The Clarksville River Fest – Music and Artists
At the New Albany-Floyd County Library:
• Oct. 1: “Steamboat a Comin’: The Legacy of the New Orleans.” Exhibit in the Lower Gallery
• Oct. 9: “Anna and Harlan Hubbard, Keeping It Simple.” Images and lecture by Paul Hassfurder from 5:30-6:30 p.m. in the Library Auditorium.
• Oct. 16: “200 Years of Steamboat History.” Lecture by Dr. Larry DeBuhr formerly of the Rivers Institute. 7 p.m. in the Library Auditorium.
At Waterfront Park,
• Oct. 14-19: Centennial Festival of Riverboats.
• Information: (812) 949-4238.
Hanover College owns 20 Hubbard paintings and displays them in a small room inside the J. Graham Brown Campus Center, but the room is kept locked for security reasons, and entry must be made by special request.
Behringer Crawford Museum, located in Devou Park of Covington, Ky., holds one of the largest collections of more than 20 Hubbard paintings. The museum is located close to Hubbard’s birthplace of Bellevue, Ky. For many years, the paintings were only brought out for temporary display. But that changed after a museum expansion in 2007, according to curator Laurie Risch.
“We do keep several of Harlan's works on permanent display – generally about eight to 10. They are now dispersed throughout the museum, since we grew to 20,000 square feet, and not situated in their own gallery. They are hung mostly based on subject matter – railroads, river, etc.”
Several Madison area residents own Hubbard paintings. But the largest private collection in Madison is held by Dr. Robert Canida, a dentist who lives in a house overlooking the Ohio River. Hubbard spent his last two months living with the Canida family, and Hubbard died there on Jan. 16, 1988, after a long battle with prostate cancer. Hubbard’s body was cremated and buried alongside his wife, Anna, in a plot directly below their primitive house on the banks of the Ohio River in Trimble County in what is called Payne Hollow.
Hubbard’s paintings are scattered throughout the world, many of them owned privately by residents of the area. So they are seldom – or never – seen by the public.
Fortunately, these special paintings are offered up for public display on occasion, such as the Louisville Festival of Riverboats that is coming to the Louisville waterfront Oct. 14-19 and Jeffersonville, Ind.’s Steamboat Days festival set for Oct. 17-19. With five riverboats coming to Louisville, it just seemed appropriate to some to bring out the Hubbard paintings, since riverboats and life on the Ohio River played such a large role in the late artist’s writings and art.
Julie Schweitzer, executive director of the Arts Council of Southern Indiana, located at 820 E. Market St., New Albany, traveled to Madison in late September to collect 10 Hubbard paintings from the Hanover College collection and another 17 paintings from Canida. “I am also waiting to hear from a few more individuals who might offer their Hubbard paintings to the exhibit,” she said.
She has organized two Hubbard art exhibits, which opened Sept. 26 and will run through Nov. 1 and coincide with the two riverboat-based festivals. Canida’s paintings are being displayed at the Arts Council. An opening reception is planned there from 1-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11. The Hanover College collection, meanwhile, is being displayed at the Vintage Fire Museum, located at 723 Spring St. in Jeffersonville. The Vintage Fire Museum opened in December 2013 to house the late Fred Conway’s collection of 14 antique fire engines and pieces.
Meantime, the nearby Howard Steamboat Museum, located at 1101 E. Market St. in Jeffersonville, owns six Hubbard paintings, which are permanently displayed on the walls of an upstairs hallway, according to curator Keith Norrington. “The paintings are open to the public year-round because we’re proud of our Hubbard collection,” he said.
In addition to the art exhibit at the Vintage Fire Museum, Schweitzer is organizing a series of lectures related to the Hubbards. Larry DeBuhr, who until recently served as the executive director of the Rivers Institute at Hanover College, will speak on “200 Years of Steamboat History” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16, at the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library, 180 W. Spring St. Paul Hassfurder, who befriended the Hubbards during their lifetime and later inherited their home in Payne Hollow, is also scheduled to provide an exhibit at the Jeffersonville Township Public Library and speak there on Oct. 22. He will also speak on Oct. 9 at the New Albany-Floyd County Library (see box for details).
Schweitzer also has arranged for two showings of the recently released documentary film about the Hubbards as part of the lecture series. The film, released in January 2013, was made by Louisville filmmaker Morgan Atkinson and titled “Wonder: The Lives of Anna and Harlan Hubbard.” Atkinson has shown the films at several locations throughout the area, and a DVD of the film is available for sale for $25 by visiting www.MorganAtkinson.com.
“We try to do everything we can to allow people to see our (Hubbard) paintings.”
– Dr. Robert Canida, DDS
Our www.HarlanHubbard.com website, created several years ago, receives many Internet visitors, but the images there do little justice to the beauty, simplicity and purity of Hubbard’s original paintings. It is too bad that the original paintings are rarely seen because they are privately owned. Security is also an issue when loaning out privately owned paintings, according to Canida.
“I loaned out paintings for about eight shows in recent years, but this was the most I loaned out at any one time,” Canida said. “I’m a little uncomfortable loaning out more than 10. Sure they are insured, but the money I would get for each lost painting would not be as important as having the paintings themselves.”
Hubbard gave Canida one painting during his lifetime. Canida bought four more directly from Hubbard and later asked to buy more. “I tried to buy more paintings from Harlan, but he said I had enough. He wanted them to be spread among many owners. This is part of where my understanding came of Harlan wanting people to have access to his paintings.”
Hubbard did agree to sell one more painting to Canida later in his life. “Once he brought out out a small paintings of a locomotive and said he thought (our son) Ben might like the paintings. Of course, we bought it, and it hung in Ben’s room from then on.” Canida has since bought the rest of his 40-plus collection at art and estate auctions and from private individuals.
A few years ago, Canida and several other area Hubbard artwork owners loaned their paintings to be part of a large Hubbard art show at the Jefferson County Historical Society. He said he was comfortable loaning pieces of his collection there “because it is a pretty secure building, and it’s insured.”
Canida said he still welcomes people into his home and his dental office to view his Hubbard collection. It is part of a promise he made to the late artist in the waning days before his death when Hubbard lived at the Canidas’ home.
“Harlan was trying to decide what to do with his artwork. This is after he had given several paintings to Behringer Crawford Museum. He was disappointed that they only brought them out for a month or so every three years. He considered giving some paintings to the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, but he was afraid they would remain locked up in a vault. He wanted people to be able to see them. So despite the risks of security, we try to do everything we can to allow people to see our paintings.”
Twenty-six years after his death, Hubbard still captures our imagination and adoration from those who cherish and revere the simple life he led on the banks of the Ohio River. His artistic talents still touch the lives of so many, from his tiny hometown in northern Kentucky all the way to the big cities of Louisville and Jeffersonville.
For now, we will have to settle for these infrequent occasions when Hubbard paintings emerge from their private dwellings to again amaze us at what one man living on primitive means could accomplish in a small art studio clinging to the side of a hill in Trimble County.
Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout.
Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email: Don@RoundAbout.bz.