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Sunburst, circa 1955
Marie Hull (1890-1980)

View Artist Bio
Mixed media
24 x 19 inches
Signature Details: Marie Hull
Status: Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, South Carolina

Although she was an accomplished landscape painter whose lyrical abstractions were widely admired during her lifetime, Marie Hull is best known for her portraits of Mississippi archetypes. Born in a small town near Jackson, Mississippi, Hull initially prepared for a career in music and taught piano after graduating from Belhaven College in 1909. Around this time, she began to paint and studied locally with Aileen Phillips before spending a year under Daniel Garber and Hugh Breckenridge at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Returning to her native state in 1913, Hull joined the faculty at Hillman College and spent summer months attending workshops at the Colorado Springs Art Center with John Carlson and Robert Reid. In 1917, she married a local architect and began a lifelong career of teaching art in her Jackson studio, while continuing her own education. She took summer classes at the Art Students League in New York in 1922 and later completed her schooling as a member of George Elmer Brown's European study group in 1929.

Hull greatly admired Breckenridge's explorations of avant-garde strategies and credited him with stimulating her interest in modernist techniques and rich color. She also assimilated the anatomically rigorous portrait style still favored by the Academy. During the 1920s, Hull painted landscapes and street scenes, some of them done in Europe and Mexico, where she and her husband traveled to study architecture. In the Depression-era 1930s, her attention turned from outdoor scenes to portraits of sharecroppers and African Americans. Hull subsequently progressed to abstractions, exploring various styles and mediums, including casein. She exhibited in Mississippi and in other regional and national shows, including the New York World's Fair and the Golden Gate Exhibition in San Francisco in 1939. Her work earned favorable reviews, numerous awards, and select prizes.

By 1965, her work was often totally nonobjective, rendered in her trademark bold color and lush brushwork. Her abstractions were usually based on her own rapid studies-often made from the window of a speeding car or train during educational trips to New York, Chicago, or Philadelphia-so that only the essence of the scenery was recorded. She later developed this motif on several different canvases and watercolors into a series of thematically related studio compositions.

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This essay is copyrighted by Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc. and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission.

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