William James Hubard

(20 August 1807 - 15 February 1862)


William James Hubard (1807-1862) was British-born artist who worked in England and the United States in the 19th century. He specialized in silhouette and painted portraits.

Hubard arrived in the United States from England in 1824. In 1825-1826 he worked in Boston, Massachusetts, setting up an exhibition known as the "Hubard Gallery" at Julien Hall (corner Congress and Milk Streets). At the time Hubard would have been about 18 or 19 years old. A local newspaper reported "there is a great variety of pictures -- likenesses, groups of animals, landscape scenery, caricatures,etc. -- all cut with a simple pair of scissors, without the aid of any machinery whatever, and which a spectator might, at a hasty glance, take for painting." He received raves in the press: "He exercises his scissors with so much dexterity and skill, that an accurate profile, even of the most 'unmeaning face,' can be procured in twenty-five seconds, without the use of steam." Local resident John George Metcalf visited the gallery in 1825, and wrote in his diary:






"Hubard Gallery. This is a collection of cuttings of black paper of all the shapes and figures that can possibly be imagined. The figures after being cut out, are arranged and pasted on white paper which are skilfully and tastefully placed about the Hall. This astonishing genius is a native of Shropshire in England and is now about fifteen years of age. Here, and all done with only a pair of common scissors, you can see the stately structures of Westminster Abbey, the Catholic Church at Glasgow and others all with their due proportion of light and shade. Here Napoleon has burst from the cearments of the grave and is upon his warhorse, as when on the bloody fields of Austerlitz and Marengo. Franklin too has come back, and stands for the patriot and Philosopher as when at the court of London he said "his Master shall pay for it." Kings and princes have left their gilded mausoleums, and at the will of Master Hubard are set up to be gazed at by clown and cobler. Besides these graver scenes we have the lighter ones of Life. Fiddlers, Beggars, Bellmen, Irishmen and others ad infinitum, all as natural as life, all the creation of a pair of common scissors, attract the attention and excite the admiration of many a gazer. Horses and Dogs, pigs and pussies, and all that "sort o' thing," can here be found from the size of a thumb-nail to that of a platter. In fine here any one, if he is not made by one of Nature's journeymen, can find fun and frolic enough to last a week."



Hubard later moved to Richmond, Virginia where he married. On January 14, 1853, he was given exclusive license by the Virginia General Assembly to make bronze copies of the marble statue of George Washington by French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon, producing them as of 1856, with a total of six in all.

In February 1862, he was killed in an accidental explosion while making munitions in Richmond for the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. Works by Hubard reside in the collections of Historic New England; and the Smithsonian. Wikipedia



Willie and Ella Children of the Artist




Painter, silhouette artist, and sculptor. Chiefly a portrait painter, he also undertook historical and literary subjects. His distinctive, miniaturistic paintings portray full-length subjects within crisply detailed settings. Cabinet-size works also include a few imaginative themes, such as the haunting "Dream of Columbus" (Valentine Richmond [Virginia] History Center, early 1850s), which pictures the dozing explorer seated in his study, while in a visionary apparition, ships approach an alpine-flavored new world in the background. The diminutive portraits, such as Charles Carroll of Carrollton (Metropolitan Museum, c. 1830), forcefully evoke individual character despite their size.

Born in Whitechurch, Shropshire, while still a child Hubard gained renown for his ability to cut portrait silhouettes. He toured Great Britain with a traveling showman, who brought him to the United States in 1824. While making silhouettes in New York and Boston, he became interested in portrait painting and in 1826 began working professionally. In changing specialties, he apparently received advice and encouragement from Robert W. Weir, Gilbert Stuart, and Thomas Sully. He worked in New York, the mid-Atlantic states, and Virginia before traveling to Italy and France for about three years. There his style became more academically polished but less individual, and afterward he less often worked in the small format he had so effectively exploited. Soon after his return in 1841, he settled in Richmond, Virginia.

There in 1853, newly interested in sculpture, he opened a bronze foundry, where he most notably produced six bronze casts of Jean Antoine Houdon's standing George Washington (state capitol, Richmond, 1785–88). During the Civil War, the plant was converted to the manufacture of war munitions. Hubard died from injuries sustained in an accidental explosion there. The Oxford Dictionary of American Art and Artist


Birth: August 20, 1807, Warwick, England
Death: Feb. 15, 1862, Richmond City, Virginia, USA

"William James Hubard came from England before the War between the States. On reaching Gloucester County, Virginia, he painted several portraits of the Tabb family, and married my mother's first cousin, Miss Maria Mason Tabb. He moved to Richmond and had a home on what is now the corner of Park Avenue and Shafer streets. In those days that part of the city was all bare fields, and no other persons lived near that I know of. Across the road from his home in the middle of a field he built a studio where he did a good deal of painting. He assisted Captain John Mercer Brooke in constructing the first, famous Brooke gun, many of which were used by the Confederate forces. Tradition has it that the first gun of this type was mounted on the ironclad Virginia. Later Hubard was casting shells for this gun when one of them exploded. He was fearfully burned and all the contents of the studio destroyed. His son, William, was the first person to reach the scene on hearing the explosion; he carried his father to the house where he died in a short while, on February 17, 1862. Someone immediately brought the news to my parents (Judge and Mrs. William W. Crump), and they went out and ministered to the bereaved family. Hubard's property was confiscated by the United States Government after the war closed, and his wife and two children returned to Gloucester. He is buried in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia."

The above was written by Mrs. William B. Lightfoot of Richmond, Virginia, whose mother was Miss Mary Tabb of Gloucester County, Virginia. It is published in Virginia Historical Portraiture 1585-1830, by Alexander Wilbourne Weddell, on page 417. William was born at Warwick, England, on August 20, 1807. William immigrated, in 1824. Destination:. He married Maria Mason Tabb at Ware Church, Gloucester County, Virginia, in 1837. William died on at Richmond, Henrico County, Virginia, at age 54. His body was interred in February 1862, at Richmond, Henrico County, Virginia, at Hollywood Cemetery.
© Copyright Ownership: Taken from: Tabb Family History
Family links:
Spouse: Maria Mason Tabb Hubard (1813-1888)* [*Calculated relationship]
Note: Date Of Burial: Confederate Soldier State: Regiment: Company: Ref: Cemetery Records.
Burial: Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Richmond City, Virginia, USA
Find A Grave Memorial


Mouseover to Enlarge

1. Self-Portrait
2. William James Hubard, Valentine S. Mann, 1852
3. Daguerreotype Passion Series
4. Daguerreotype Passion Series



View painter's art: William James Hubard (1809-1862)

google.com [new window view]