Rare Treat

Harlan Hubbard watercolors on exhibit
at Frazier History Museum

The artwork is from collection Hubbard
left to Bill Caddell

Staff Report

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (March 2019) – The least known, but arguably the best, of the late Harlan Hubbard’s artistic media are his watercolors. Fresh, improvisational and spontaneous, Hubbard’s watercolors are visual equivalents to the lively, brief descriptions of the natural world found in his journals. 
Like Hubbard’s observations of the natural world, the watercolors are notable for their immediacy and for the artist’s enthrallment with the sights he encountered in his life along waterways.

Photo courtesy of
David Aaron Marshall

An untitled Harlan Hubbard watercolor is pictured above.

Opening Feb. 20 and running through May 5, the Frazier History Museum is offering an exhibition of Hubbard’s watercolors from the largest exhibition of Hubbard watercolors to date – that of collector Bill Caddell of Frankfort, Ind.
Hubbard and his wife, Anna, lived off the land and without electricity along the banks of the Ohio River in Trimble County, Ky. Hubbard was a talented but little known author and artist outside the region, however, he maintained a strong and loyal following among those who collected his art and read his books. Still others maintained a devotion to Hubbard for his simple philosophy for living and his organic farming approaches.
Anna Hubbard, originally from Cincinnati, died in 1986; Harlan, originally from Fort Thomas, Ky., died in 1988.
During his lifetime, Hubbard befriended many visitors to his home in Payne Hollow and especially students from nearby Hanover College. Among them was Caddell, who visited the Hubbards for more than 40 years. In his will, Hubbard left Caddell with the majority of his artwork and most of his watercolors. Caddell and his wife, Flo, later created the Anna and Harlan Hubbard School of Living at the Frankfort, Ind., Public Library.
Bill and Flo Caddell, along with Jessica Whitehead, another Hanover College graduate and now a Louisville, resident, have submitted and received approval from the University of Kentucky Press for a new book proposal on Hubbard’s watercolors. Around 200 works have been selected out of many more. Publication of the book is scheduled for 2020, according to Whitehead.
“Hubbard’s watercolors haven’t really been written about, but they really represent the feeling of his lifestyle and the beauty, color and life of the Ohio River valley. They capture the vastness and vitality of the landscape,” Whitehead said during a July 2017 telephone interview with RoundAbout.
In addition to their value as works of art, she said, the watercolors also have immense value in the biographical information they contain. Through them, scholars and others interested in Hubbard’s life can tell where, when and how he traveled during his long career.
For the watercolor book, the plan is to use interviews with people whose lives have been impacted by the Hubbards as some of the accompanying texts. So far, more than 20 people have been interviewed for the project.

The Frazier History Museum is located at 829 W. Main St. in Louisville, Ky. For more information, contact the museum at (502) 753-5663.

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