Many of Hubbard’s landscapes depict places in Kentucky. When you think about the landscape of Kentucky, what comes to mind? Does the geography vary in different regions across the state? Using colored pencils or oil pastels, draw a landscape that embodies what Kentucky looks like to you.
Go outside and choose a scene that appeals to you. Using colored pencils or pastels, quickly sketch the scene to capture its appearance and feeling.
Harlan Hubbard created woodcut prints and painted with oils, acrylics, and watercolors. He used the scenes he witnessed along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers as subjects for his pictures and prints, including steamboats on the rivers and hillsides along the shores.
About the Artist
Harlan Hubbard was born in Bellevue, in Northern Kentucky, on January 4, 1900. At the age of 15, he and his widowed mother moved to New York City to join his two older brothers, who were already living there. There Hubbard recognized his desire to become a painter and enrolled in the National Academy of Design Art School. In 1919, he returned to Northern Kentucky with his mother and attended the Cincinnati Art Academy.
Hubbard married Anna Eikenhout in 1943. The couple shared a dream of living on the Ohio River, and in 1944, Hubbard began building a boat from used lumber. The couple set sail in 1946, drifting down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers until they reached New Orleans and the bayous of Louisiana in 1951. After drifting all winter long, the Hubbards would settle ashore each summer and raise the crops that were to sustain them through their months of travel. In 1952, they sold their boat and bought a used car, then traveled through the western United States.
In 1952, the Hubbards returned to Payne Hollow in Trimble County, Kentucky, where they had spent the first summer of their journey. They purchased several acres of land along the Ohio River and built a two-room cabin and a studio for Harlan. The home was isolated—to reach it, the Hubbards and their visitors could either hike a one-mile trail from the road or row a boat across the river from Hanover, Indiana. The Hubbards lived without the modern conveniences of electricity and running water. They used a fireplace for heat, a woodstove for cooking, and a cistern for water. They kept goats for fresh milk and fished in the river. For things they couldn’t obtain from nature, they sold or bartered Harlan’s paintings.
The Hubbards chose to live on their own and were successful at it. They spent time each day doing things they enjoyed, both together and alone. Both were musicians—Anna played piano and Harlan violin—and they would play duets. They also read books aloud to each other every night.
Harlan created woodcut prints and paintings in oils, acrylics, and watercolors. Scenes he had seen along the rivers were often his subjects. Each year he made woodcut prints to send as the couple’s Christmas card.
He was also an author. Several of his books were published during his lifetime and still others after his death. The first, Shantytown, was published in 1953 and told of his and Anna’s trip down the Ohio and Mississippi. Numerous books have been written about Hubbard and his work, including Harlan Hubbard: Life and Work by Wendell Berry and The Woodcuts of Harlan Hubbard by Claude W. Caddell.
Though Hubbard rarely promoted his own artwork, he did hold a few exhibits and show his paintings in some galleries. He preferred, however, to sell his work to friends or to barter it for items he and his wife needed. He did accept commissions to paint large pieces and murals for businesses along the Ohio River.
After 43 years of marriage, Anna Eikenhout Hubbard died in 1986. Harlan died two years later. Their ashes are buried on a hillside near their cabin in Payne Hollow, marked only by a simple piece of rock.