George Overbury “Pop” Hart

George Overbury “Pop” Hart

“Pop” Hart’s life was characterized by travel and an interest in the mundane activities of everyday people. I have not found how he got his nickname but perhaps it was a folksy reference to his contentment with living a life of simplicity without acquiring property and possessions.

Although he is often called a self-taught artist, it should be remembered that his older siblings were also artists and it might be assumed he benefited from their art advice. His formal training did not occur until after he had been an artist for some time. He was 26 when he attended the Chicago Art Institute for three years and ten years later studied for a year at the Academie Julien in Paris. He also had important artist friends. In his thirties and forties, he was part of an artist colony in Fort Lee, New Jersey that included Walt Kuhn, Arthur B. Davies, and Edward Hopper. In New York, his close friends were Robert Henri and John Sloan, both of whom were teachers as well as producing artists.

His strong desire to travel may have made it uncomfortable for him to stay in one place very long. As early as 18, he sailed on a cattle boat to London, and while he was there began his practice of being an itinerant sign painter to earn his living while traveling. On his trips he found watercolor to be an ideal media due to its portability and fast drying. His manner of using watercolor was revolutionary for its time in its loose and free application. His style was unique and attracted the attention of Knoedler Gallery in New York where he had his first show. For a short time, he worked in the fledgling movie industry in New Jersey designing and painting stage sets. Any income he earned went toward travel to unsophisticated places. He loved the tropics. The places he went include Mexico, Central America, North Africa, the Caribbean islands, and the South Seas islands. He visited Tahiti in 1903, shortly after the death of Gauguin.

By 1921 he began making etchings, drypoints, and lithographs. These, too, were loose like his watercolors. In the exotic locations he traveled, it was the activity of people rather than the scenery that became subject matter for his art. Spontaneity and exuberance were qualities he tried to capture as he, first, sketched and, then, used his sketches as subjects for prints when he would return to the United States where he had access to a printing press.

His works are in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Brooklyn Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian Institution, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The South Kensington Museum in London, and the British Museum.

Lithograph with hand coloring
“The Gamblers”
signed in the margin
from the collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
(deaccession label on back )
mounted on cardboard
image size 6 7/8” x 9”
paper size 10” x 13 ½ “

“The Gamblers” may have been sketched in the Dominican Republic. There are other scenes of cock fighting he drew that state that location.
“The Gamblers” is pictured in George Overbury “Pop” Hart – His life and Art, by Gregory Gilbert, Rutgers University Press, 1986, p. 82.