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HUBBARD, BESS BIGHAM

HUBBARD, BESS BIGHAM (1896–1977). Bess Bigham Hubbard, artist and sculptor, was born on February 18, 1896, in Fort Worth, one of three daughters of Jesse W. and Frances (Burton) Bigham. She spent her early years in Fort Worth and began her college education at Texas Christian University. About 1916, during a visit to a cousin in Lubbock, she met Chester A. Hubbard, an area farmer who also worked as a car dealer. After their marriage in 1917, the Hubbards made Lubbock their permanent home. They had one son. Bess Hubbard began her art career in 1925 as a hobby and over the next few years continued her education in that field at Colorado College, the University of New Mexico, Bradley University, and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. During the course of her studies she worked with such noted art instructors as Xavier Gonzalez, Alexandre Hogue, Boardman Robinson, Octavio Medellin, Ernest Freed, and William Zorach. Hubbard soon won notice for her impressionist-style paintings, lithographs, and etchings featuring local subjects and southwestern regional motifs. In the 1940s she began sculpting, using the direct-carving method that Zorach introduced in the United States as a modernist break from traditional casting techniques. She concentrated on giving her pieces prominent features and distinct lines of character, frequently combining rough and polished surfaces for textural interest. In the mid-1940s she began using Taos Indians as models for her sculptures. Beginning in 1949 she also experimented with jewelry and stained glass.

By the mid-1950s she had earned international recognition for her art pieces. Over the years examples of her work were exhibited at Southern Methodist University, Hardin-Simmons University, the Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock, the Seattle Art Museum, the Los Angeles County Art Institute, the Argent Gallery in New York, the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (now the Dallas Museum of Artqv), the Museum of Fine Artsqv in Houston, the Witte Museum in San Antonio, the Schleier Galleries in Denver, the Colorado Springs Art Institute, the Denver Art Museum, and the School of American Research Museum in Santa Fe, as well as at the Museum of Texas Tech University in Lubbock. In addition, several of her sculptures were exhibited at various museums and galleries in England, such as the New Burlington Gallery (1955), and in other European countries and by individual collectors as well. Her two best-known sculptures were La Reboza (1952) and the Green Goddess (1949). Hubbard's work was featured in The USA in Review in London, England, in 1955; in Harper's Bazaar in 1956; and in Life magazine in 1957. Over a twenty-year period she was honored with awards by the National Gallery of Design, the Metroplex Museum, the Argent Gallery, the Honolulu Academy of Art, and in 1943 the Laguna Beach Art Association. She also won awards from the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in 1945 and 1947 and in 1950 the WFAA-KGKO Award of the Fort Worth Annual Texas Print Exhibition. She served as a regional director of the Texas Fine Arts Association and as booking secretary for the Texas Printmakers' Society. She was a member of the American Association of Women Artists and the South Plains Art Guild. In Lubbock she was a member of the First Christian Church, was active in local civic work as a counselor for the Boy Scouts, and was on the Mural Committee of the West Texas Museum Association.

Chester Hubbard died in 1957. In the late 1960s Mrs. Hubbard began casting small works in bronze and chrome. She restored the 1930 murals in the lobby of the old Caprice Hotel in Lubbock and carved a monument to stand over the graves of her sister and husband. Bronze sculptures of her son and two grandchildren, done mainly for pleasure, were later exhibited in London. She was plagued with failing health during her last years. She died at her home on March 23, 1977, and was interred in the family plot in the City of Lubbock Cemetery. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Dallas Museum of Art, the Texas Fine Arts Association, the Elisabet Ney Museum, and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Doris Dawdy, Artists of the American West (3 vols., Athens, Ohio: Swallow, 1974–86). Patricia D. Hendricks and Becky D. Reese, A Century of Sculpture in Texas, 1889–1989 (Huntington Art Gallery, University of Texas at Austin, 1989). Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, March 24, 1977. Jerry Bywaters Collection on the Art of the Southwest, Southern Methodist University. Chris Petteys, Dictionary of Women Artists (Boston: Hall, 1985). Who's Who in American Art, 1956.

H. Allen Anderson

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

H. Allen Anderson, "HUBBARD, BESS BIGHAM," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fhu82), accessed October 25, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.