The least known, but arguably the best, artworks in Harlan Hubbard’s body of work are his watercolors. Fresh, improvisatory, and spontaneous, they embody the lively, brief descriptions of nature found in his journals. Hubbard referred to his artistic method as “the art of drifting”: He would frequently set out in his johnboat, row upstream, then paint the scenery while he floated back down. As nearly all of his subjects are river-related — steamboats, shantyboats, river banks, fishing vessels, riverside towns, and other pastoral themes — his pieces elicit the feeling of being with the artist in his boat, bearing witness to nature and all of its splendor. Featuring 90 watercolors produced between 1919 and 1988, The Art of Drifting: The Watercolors of Harlan Hubbard is the largest exhibition of Hubbard’s work to date. A book on the watercolors by Hubbard scholar Jessica Whitehead is scheduled to be published in 2020 by University of Kentucky Press.
Exhibition curated by Peter Morrin and John Beagley
ABOUT HARLAN HUBBARD
Known as “the Kentucky Thoreau,” Harlan Hubbard (1900 – 1988) was an artist, writer, and environmentalist who endeavored to live as closely in harmony with nature as possible. A skilled carpenter and stone mason who built his own homes, Hubbard lived most of his life without the modern conveniences of electricity or indoor plumbing, a mile away from the nearest road, surviving on what food he could barter for, raise, or catch. He is best known for his book Shantyboat: A River Way of Life (1954), which details his life aboard a powerless, homemade houseboat, and his drifting, four-year voyage with his wife Anna down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers from Ft. Thomas to New Orleans. After their journey had ended, the Hubbards settled down and built a cabin on a seven-acre property in Payne Hollow, a riverside valley located in Trimble County, Kentucky, where they spent the remainder of their lives. Anna and Harlan Hubbard died in 1986 and 1988, respectively.
A book by Harlan Hubbard will be available in the museum store.
Sunday, February 24, 2 – 4 pm,
Exhibition opening for museum visitors, access to which is included in the cost of admission.
Tuesday March 12, 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM
The Lewis & Clark Giving Society presents their first ever educational lunch series.
Join Peter Morrin, former director of the Speed Art Museum, and John Begley, former director of Louisville Visual Art, in conversation about their project "Afloat: An Ohio River Way of Life. Morrin and Begley will also lead a tour of the exhibition they have co-curated, “The Art of Drifting: The Watercolors of Harlan Hubbard. REGISTER HERE.
About “Afloat: An Ohio River Way of Life”
This exhibition is part of “Afloat: An Ohio River Way of Life,” a coordinated, year-long initiative by a consortium of museums, galleries, and academic organizations during the year 2019. The goal is to call attention to the Ohio River, its beauty, its needs, and its unmet potential. The consortium is offering a platform for its partner environmental groups to share their research and promote conservation efforts. For more information visit afloatontheohio.com.