One of the most revered of the early Hawaiian artists, David Howard Hitchcock mostly painted landscapes, from pleasing small horizontal formats up to his participation in a series of 30' murals and a 15' mural of Hanalei Bay for the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915. Hitchcock is known for his superb detailed sense of the floral nature of the Hawaiian Islands, painted with expert application of color and light.
Born in Hilo in 1861, Hitchcock first met Jules Tavernier and Joe Strong in Hawaii in 1885, and they encouraged the artist to study with Virgil Williams in San Francisco. On his return to Hawaii, Hitchcock began as a student of Tavernier’s, a renown yet troubled French artist who did important works of the American West and Hawaii. Their friendship continued even when Hitchcock’s paintings began to match and in cases surpass Tavernier’s. Hitchcock did travel extensively, not only painting Plein-Air throughout all the Hawaiian Islands, but to San Francisco and in 1890 to study for three years at the Academy Julian in Paris.
Hitchcock hit upon a style that would belong to him alone. A blended and beautiful working of tropical light, in a style that Hitchcock himself would call “conservative-impressionism” after his forays into modern art in the late 1920s met with less success than his earlier paintings. He established a studio in Honolulu, kept one at home in Hilo, and beyond painting, did some sculptures, a little illustration work and was a prominent art teacher and established the first Boy Scouting Troop in Hawaii.