Ethel Painter Hood

Ethel Painter Hood was born on April 9, 1906 in Baltimore, Maryland. Her father, John Mifflin Hood, Junior, was a civil engineer; her mother, whose maiden name was Ethel Gilpin Painter, the daughter of a gifted inventor and cousin of the noted illustrator, Howard Pyle. Ethel’s varied talents led her to try many avenues before she settled upon sculpture as a career. After childhood, she lived in California for two years, attending schools in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and became an avid swimmer. She planned to try out for the Olympic team and went to New York for intensive practice and coaching. At the same time her interest in cartooning led her to enroll in a school of illustration. Swimming as a major interest was abandoned when her family took her to Europe in the summer of 1926. In Paris she attended some classes in painting at the Académie Julian and tried her hand at writing, submitting articles to Vogue as a free-lance correspondent.

Back in Baltimore again, Ethel studied the violin and received so much encouragement that she went to New York for further study and in her spare moments attended Ivan Olinsky’s classes in oil painting at the Art Students’ League. Returning to Baltimore, she became interested in sculpture. She found a studio and went to work with ne instruction. The results were so good that she was able to sell the third head that she modeled and the first bas-relief. Feeling that she had found her true vocation, she put aside all her other interests and devoted herself entirely to sculpture. Francis Whitman, a head of a boy, was exhibited at The Baltimore Museum of Art in 1933.

Since New York seemed to offer more opportunities, she took a studio there. The first public showing of a group of works was at the Karl Freund Gallery in December 1938, offered her by Mr. Freund after he had seen her sculpture and become enthusiastic about it. In the same year she had been elected a fellow of the National Sculpture Society. Another one-man show, at the Decorators’ Club, followed in January, and her work won a bronze medal in the exhibition of the Society of Washington Artists held in the Corcoran Art Gallery. Dream of Youth, two kneeling figures with clasped hands symbolizing the youth of Australia and New Zealand, was exhibited at Baltimore in 1939 and placed for a time in the Anzac Garden on top of the British Building at Rockefeller Center.

Portrait studies in which she could concentrate on character and a rapid impression of personality were Ethel’s first choice of subject matter. In order to improve her technique and to gain a more thorough understanding of the art of sculpture she studied with Brenda Putnam for two years. Subsequently, she works quickly, beginning with a few poses and finishing the portrait without further reference to the model in about two weeks’ time. This method keeps the freshness of the first impression and allows her to preserve her vision of a personality undisturbed by too much reworking. Her methods are direct and forceful, disregarding surface finish and refinements of detail for immediacy of effect or vivid presentation of an underlying idea. Numerous distinguished stage actors and musical performers posed for Ethel, including Beatrice Lillie, Helen Hayes, Margaret Speaks, and Gilbert Russell. Many of their busts were shown at the Argent Galleries in 1947 as “Heads by Hood.” Patient Man received the Clark Award for portraiture at the exhibition of the Katherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club in 1959.

Ethel had an interest in the structure and action of the human body and taught herself first principles from a standard textbook. She sculpted several compositions involving muscular figures in action. Body Blow, a study of two sparring boxers from 1949, won first honorable mention for sculpture from the Allied Artists of America and the gold medal from the Katherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club. She was appointed a member of the Fine Arts Commission in 1959.

Ethel Hood passed away in 1982.

Exhibited: The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1933; Karl Freund Gallery, New York, 1938; Decorators Club, 1939 (solo) Corcoran Art Gallery (bronze medal); Argent Galleries, 1947; Pen and Brush Club, 1964 (solo).

Source: Proske, Beatrice Gilman. "Brookgreen Gardens Sculpture.' new ed. 1968. Print.