Exhibit Gives View into One Artist's Experiment in Versatility

By Shaw, Kurt | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 14, 2011 | Go to article overview

Exhibit Gives View into One Artist's Experiment in Versatility


Shaw, Kurt, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


The recent death of Lancaster artist Hubert J. FitzGerald at the age of 87 is noteworthy not only because of his tremendous talents, but because his art is the subject of a small but relatively complete retrospective exhibit of those talents at Westmoreland Museum of American Art.

Titled "Moments in Time," the exhibit opened weeks before his June 4 passing.

"He was here for the opening, and he really had a good time talking with everyone about his work," the museum's curator Barbara Jones says.

Recognizing FitzGerald's remarkable versatility as a painter, Jones began organizing the exhibit earlier this year with the thought of showcasing the many styles the artist painted in over the decades he dedicated to creating art.

"His work changed with the different styles and periods of art that were in fashion," Jones says. "He was very skilled at adapting to the trends and he experimented a lot."

A native of Jeannette, FitzGerald studied art at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) alongside other Tech luminaries like Andy Warhol (1928-87) and Philip Pearlstein (born in 1924).

His education at Carnegie Tech was interrupted by World War II. He joined the Army and was selected for the Office of Strategic Services, an elite intelligence branch that was the precursor to today's CIA. While behind enemy lines in Holland, he was shot, but recovered. And for his bravery, he was awarded a Purple Heart before returning to Carnegie Tech to complete his bachelor of fine arts in painting and design in 1949.

Fresh out of school, he was hired to work as a designer with Alcoa in Pittsburgh. Then, in 1950, he relocated to Lancaster to join Armstrong Cork Co. (Armstrong World Industries), where he served in various creative-design capacities throughout his 34-year career with them. But through it all, he never could put the brush down, painting in his free time as much as possible and exhibiting those paintings regularly at galleries in the Lancaster area, often in conjunction with the Echo Valley Art Group, of which he was a longtime member.

The earliest painting in the exhibit, "Lower B Street" (c. 1949), is believed to have been completed while FitzGerald still was a student at Carnegie Tech. It was at Tech that he was influenced greatly by instructor Samuel Rosenberg.

"I used to go to his studio and watch him paint," FitzGerald said earlier this year, when interviewed about the exhibit "A Painter's Legacy: The Students of Samuel Rosenberg" at the American Jewish Museum at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill.

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