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Art Appreciation

Hutty connoisseur Edith Howle (right) loaned this circa-1940s painting, Low Country Cabin, for “The Art of Alfred Hutty: Woodstock to Charleston." Painting by Alfred Hutty (American, 1877-1954), oil on canvas, 32 ¼ x 40 ¼ inches, courtesy of the Howle-Throckmorton Collection, Charleston, S.C. & photograph by Julia Lynn

February 1, 2012

Art Appreciation
One local collector inspired the Gibbes Museum of Art's expansive exhibit of works by Charleston Renaissance artist Alfred Hutty

WriTten by James Hutchisson

On January 20, the Gibbes Museum of Art launched a major exhibition, “The Art of Alfred Hutty: Woodstock to Charleston,” to great interest and fanfare. However, what’s lesser known is how this retrospective of 70 pieces by the famed painter, etcher, and printmaker came to be.

It started with a passionate collector, Edith Howle. Her unstoppable intellectual curiosity has led her, over the past 30 years, to amass the largest private collection of the work of renowned Charleston Renaissance artist Alfred Hutty. Howle, who is of partial Japanese ancestry, was first drawn to Hutty’s studies of trees, which reminded her of “the elegant minimalism and technical perfection” of Japanese prints.

A retired executive who divides her time between Charleston and Santa Fe, Howle suggested the concept of a book on Hutty to the Gibbes some time ago when she learned of the vast collection of the artist’s work the museum owned. She then embarked on an enormous research task, painstakingly identifying more than 230 individual prints, in the process compiling a catalog of Hutty’s etchings, drypoints, and lithographs—the first since 1929. Her catalog appears in the companion volume to the exhibit, published by University of South Carolina Press, along with her accompanying essay, “My Journey With Alfred Hutty,” which details the many unexpected turns and surprising discoveries.

What started out as research ended up as “a mission to help audiences understand Hutty as a person and an artist,” says Howle. She sifted through Internet archives, found clippings about Hutty in small-circulation newspapers, and learned much about his youth growing up in Grand Haven, a harbor town on the banks of Lake Michigan. “Hutty was a private person who worked very slowly,” Howle notes. “At the bottom of his work, he always drew a little snail beside his signature—to show that he was never in a hurry when it came to his art. That little thing individualized him for me.”

Her one regret? That she cannot acquire more work by her idol. “Too little space,” she says resignedly. “But maybe, just maybe,” she quickly adds, “there is another piece out there that I’ll feel I just have to have.”

“The Art of Alfred Hutty: Woodstock to Charleston”
Through April 22 at the Gibbes Museum of Art, 135 Meeting St. Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 1-5 p.m. $9; $7 student/senior/military; $5 ages six-12; free for child under six. (843) 722-2706 x22,

To read “A Life’s Work,” James Hutchisson’s January 2012 feature on Alfred Hutty, click here.

For more information on the exhibit and special tours with Gibbes curator of collections Sara Arnold, click here.

For profiles on local artists, click here.

Wed, 02/01/2012