Thomas Hewes Hinckley

(1813 - 1896)

Born at Milton, Massachusetts. At the age of fifteen he was apprenticed to a trade in Philadelphia, but, having a fondness for drawing animals, he attended during one winter an evening school, where he was instructed by Mason in perspective, and in light and shade. This is the only instruction Hinckley ever received. When eighteen years old he went to Boston, and two years later associated himself with a sign and fancy painter in order to learn the use of colors. He soon attempted portrait and landscape painting, to which, after a time, he devoted himself, occasionally painting also subjects from still-life. In 1843, he made a successful picture of dogs, and determined then to devote himself to animal-painting. In 1845, he established himself in a studio at Milton. In 1851, he went to Europe for the purpose of studying the works of Landseer and other English and Flemish masters. In 1858, he painted for a gentleman of Sheffield, England, two pictures of dogs and game, which were exhibited at the Royal Academy, London, the same year. Hinckley has never copied or imitated any other artist, believing Nature to be the only true source of knowledge. His pictures are in galleries in all the principal cities of the United States. A landscape with cows belongs to Mr. John Erskine of Boston; pictures of deer to Mr. C. H. Miller and to Mrs. E. D. Kimball of Salem, Massachusetts, etc. Hinckley very rarely exhibits his works publicly.

Artists of the Nineteenth Century and their Works; Biographical Sketches. By Clara Erskine Clement and Laurence Hutton, 1879.

Thomas Hewes Hinckley was born in Milton, Massachusetts in 1813. In 1829, he went to Philadelphia where he became a merchant's apprentice; while there, he also attended an evening class in drawing at the home of the artist, John Mason. In 1833, he returned to Milton, first finding employment as a sign painter and later as a portraitist. In neither of these areas, however, did Hinckley succeed as he did in the painting of domestic and game animals. Tuckerman placed Hinckley among those animal artists who had "...made familiar and progressive a class of pictures long prized in Holland, France, and England" by "...illustrating some of the most characteristic traits of animated nature, and making apparent their subtle relation to humanity". Hinckley's patrons were frequently wealthy local squires or gentleman farmers who commissioned portraits of favorite dogs or cattle, as well as landscapes highlighted by prize stock.

In 1851, he went to Europe to study the work of Sir Edwin Landseer, and two of his hunting paintings were exhibited at the Royal Academy in London. Hinckley also admired and was influenced by the work of the 17th Dutch painter, Albrecht Cuyp (1620-1691). In his notebook entries for 1860, he describes one painting, "Waiting for the Milkmaid", as "Group of Cows a la Cuyp, but better." The appeal of Hinckley's work to hunters and gentleman farmers meant that they sold without difficulty and without the need to be exhibited. However, Hinckley exhibited at the Boston Art Association (1844), the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia (1848, 1855), The National Academy of Design (1846), the Boston Athenaeum (1863), the Boston Art Club (1873), the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association (1874), and the American Art Union in New York (27 pictures between 1845 and 1852), the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia (1876), and the San Francisco Art Association (1872), as well as many others. Hinckley's work is well represented in many fine public and private collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, Corcoran Gallery, Washington, North Carolina Museum of Art, Shelburne Museum, Vermont, Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, National Museum of American Art, Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Georgia, Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, St. Joseph, Missouri, and the Fruitlands Museum, Harvard, Massachusetts.

© Copyright Ownership: Childs Gallery, Boston

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