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Hugh Laidman
Hugh Herbert Laidman (American, 1913-1987) Western New York artist, freelance illustrator, muralist, teacher, and author is nationally and internationally known for his versatility. He is regarded as an accomplished commercial artist, portrait painter, figure & landscape artist, and animal illustrator. His witty syndicated comic strip “Middle Class Animals” appeared in over 100 newspapers in the United States, Canada, throughout Europe and in South Africa from 1970-72. He began his professional career when he was fourteen and from then on mastered working in all types graphic media. He authored & illustrated several how-to books on drawing and painting, and was a consultant to the art departments of various universities. He maintained studios in New York City, New Hope, PA, and East Aurora, NY.

Born in New York City, Hugh was raised and went to high school in Niagara Falls, NY and later graduated from the Pratt Institute in 1937. While there he won awards, honors and scholarships and was commissioned to paint two murals. After graduation, he became an art director and freelance illustrator. He was a partner in Van Valkenburg Associates and subsequently became art director and vice president of James J. McMahon Advertising, both in New York City, until the outbreak of World War II.

In 1942, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and initially served as a Sergeant with the aviation unit at Henderson Field, and was also a combat artist in the South Pacific, chronicling the battles throughout the Pacific Theater of Operations. The muster rolls of Headquarters for the USMC list Hugh as the first combat correspondent to report. Hugh was head of the USMC art program as Officer in Charge and along with fellow Marines Elmer Wexler and Vic Donohue, were the first three artists to go into combat at Guadalcanal during WWII. They produced many sketches of that long and difficult battle. As a result, he received a battlefield commission and also contracted malaria, but still managed to produce numerous sketches of the battle and various military exercises. Hugh later became a commissioned officer of First Lieutenant in the USMC. Some of his battle scene watercolors of planes & flyers were exhibited in a group exhibition (traveling exhibit) at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1943 entitled “Marines Under Fire”, as well as the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, where they were acclaimed by critics and the public alike.

Following the war in 1945, Hugh and his wife Betty (Elizabeth "Liz", née Alt [Hill], 1920-2006) moved to East Aurora, NY, and the two collaborated on new book and art projects. Hugh built their home and art studio from the timbers of an old Grand Island, NY carriage house. The Laidman’s stayed in the Western New York area raising three daughters; Anita (Wagenvoord), Cecily Anne Laidman and Stephanie (Tade).

In the early 1960’s, Hugh was chosen by the National Gallery of Art to record his impressions for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In the early days of the NASA space program (1963-69), Hugh was among a group of selected artists, including such luminaries as Norman Rockwell, Paul Sample and James Wyeth, who were chosen to illustrate the Apollo missions. His work for NASA also included paintings for the original launches of the early manned space probes, the push for the moon and the earliest training of space shuttle crews. His work was included in NASA’s exhibition “Eyewitness to Space” and the book of the same title in 1971. Hugh also went on to become president of “Creative Projects” for Creative Notebook, Inc., a problem-solving publication for college administrators.

Author of several how-to books on drawing for beginners, intermediate and advanced artists, Hugh established himself as one of the leading authorities on art and drawing. Many of his books were published in foreign language editions, sold worldwide and some are still in publication: How to Build Your Own House (1950); How to Make Abstract Paintings (1961); The Complete Book of Drawing and Painting (1974); Animals: How to Draw Them (1975); Figures/Faces: A Sketcher's Handbook (1979); and Drawing Animals (1979).

“The base of creativity is knowledge.” Hugh said, “An outsider usually considers the art world a hotbed of creativity although in reality it is frequently a deathbed of imitation. Knowledge of the basic tools and materials, plus at least an acquaintance with their potential, is a small step in the right direction. Knowledge of the tools and materials in relation one to the next is a giant step. Most artists feel more at home in one medium. The simple fact is that an ability to work in one medium serves to reinforce an artist’s capabilities in the next one in which he chooses to experiment…with the hope that lifting any mystery that surrounds a given process might remove the fear that is evidenced by so many specialists. A fundamental in the entire process of the artist is a knowledge of drawing. To distort effectively, the artist must first know how to draw correctly.”

Hugh exhibited in many museums and galleries here and abroad. His work was featured on the covers of various national magazines and publications. He did several covers and ads for Colliers Magazine, a cartoon series for The New Yorker magazine, and numerous illustrations for Hearst Publications. He did commissions for many different companies large and small for such organizations as; Marine Midland Bank, Buffalo, NY; Erie County Savings Bank and the Buffalo Savings Bank, Buffalo, NY; Allied Chemical Corporation, Buffalo, NY; Thiokol Chemical Company (now known as ATK launch Systems Group), Standard Oil of New Jersey, NJ; and Sun Oil (now Sunoco), Philadelphia, PA. He had paintings that hung in the Ford’s Exhibit at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and the Iranian Pavilion at the 1967 International and Universal Exposition (Expo 67) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. One painting from the Expo 67 later hung in the palace of the Shah. His works are in many museums and private collections in the U.S., England, New Zealand, Australia, the East Indies and Japan.

Hugh worked in all media including, but not limited to oil, acrylic, watercolor, pencil, pen & ink, marker, charcoal, crayon, conte & litho sticks, pastel, casein gouache, scratchboard, and brush & ink.

Chronology:

1913- August 8, Born, to parents Herbert Cecil Laidman (1890-1973) and Margaret (née Reid) Laidman, New York City, NY.

1937- Graduated from the School of Illustration, Pratt Institute, NYC.

C1937-42- He was a partner in Van Valkenburg Associates and subsequently became art director and vice president of James J. McMahon Advertising, both in NYC.

1942- Enlisted and initially served as a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) with the aviation unit at Henderson Field and was also a combat artist in the South Pacific, chronicling the battles throughout the Pacific Theater of Operations. Hugh later became a commissioned officer of First Lieutenant in the USMC, and he received a battlefield commission for his service.

1943-44- November 10-January 9, exhibited, group show (traveling exhibit), “Marines Under Fire”, an exhibition of fifty watercolors & sketches of battle pictures from the South Sea battle areas by men & officers of the United States Marine Corp., (sixteen pieces shown by Laidman) held at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), NYC, under the auspices of the Museum’s Armed Services Program on the 168th birthday of the Marines, and one of Hugh’s watercolors was of “Wing Headquarters, Guadalcanal”, and when he made that watercolor, Hugh was expecting an attack of malaria and he therefore thoughtfully painted the picture from a point near the sick bay so that the stretcher-bearers would not have far to carry him when the malaria—which arrived on schedule—hit him, and another of Hugh’s watercolors was a “Scene from Dog Battery, Guadalcanal”, a quiet stretch of water seen through tropical trees and foliage, while beneath the peaceful surface of those waters lay many Japanese ships sunk in five major Naval engagements between the American and Japanese fleets, and the pictures were also exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, where they were acclaimed by critics and the public alike. The other Laidman pieces shown were; “Moss at Sea” (pencil), “Plattor Jockey” (pencil), “Wing Headquarters” (pencil), “Compartment l-o” (pencil), “Sick Bay” (pencil), “Relaxation” (pencil), “Guadalcanal Mud” (pencil), “Rain Storm” (watercolor), “4FUs on Fighter Strip” (watercolor), “Protection” (watercolor), “Night Bomb Burst” (watercolor), “Pagoda Hill, Guadalcanal” (watercolor), “Bloody Knoll” (watercolor), and “PB4Y” (watercolor).

1945- Hugh and his wife Betty (Elizabeth "Liz" Née Alt [Hill], 1920-2006) moved to East Aurora, NY, and built their home.

1950- He authored and illustrated the book How to Build Your Own House.

1961- He authored and illustrated the book How to Make Abstract Paintings.

1963-69- He worked for NASA in the early days of the space program, and was among a group of select well known artists, including Norman Rockwell and James Wyeth, who were chosen to illustrate the Apollo missions. His work for NASA also included paintings for the original launches of the early manned space probes, the push for the moon and the earliest training of space shuttle crews.

1964- Exhibited paintings in the 1964 New York World’s Fair, in the Ford’s Exhibit, NYC.

1967- Exhibited paintings in the 1967 International and Universal Exposition (Expo 67), in the Iranian Pavilion, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

1971- Works of Hugh’s were included in the NASA exhibition “Eyewitness to Space” and the book of the same title.

1970-72- His syndicated comic strip “Middle Class Animals” ran nationally and internationally in over 100 newspapers in the United States, Canada, throughout Europe and in South Africa.

1974- He authored and illustrated his best known book The Complete Book of Drawing and Painting.

c1974- Won 2nd prize in the Chamber of Commerce-AAO “Buffalo Scene I” competition, Buffalo, NY.

1975- He authored and illustrated the book Animals: How to Draw Them.

1979- He authored and illustrated the book Figures/Faces: A Sketcher's Handbook and the book Drawing Animals.

1984- The Smithsonian honored Hugh with two entries into their National Air and Space juried exhibition, the “Golden Age of Flight”, and one painting from the exhibit of the same name was chosen for the museum’s 1986 calendar, Washington, DC.

1986- Exhibited, select drawings & paintings, at Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY. Received an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Canisius College, Buffalo, NY.

1987- Died, May 31, at the age of 73 in Millard Fillmore Hospital, Buffalo, NY after a long illness.

Exhibited also at: The Museum of Modern Art, NYC; The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN; the National Gallery, London, England; The Burchfield Art Center (now the Burchfield-Penney Art Center), Buffalo, NY, and many others.

Honors & Prizes: The Smithsonian honored Hugh with two entries into their National Air and Space juried exhibition, the “Golden Age of Flight” in 1984, featuring 400 artists. Both works were chosen for the final 25 painting exhibit, and one painting from the exhibit of the same name was chosen for the museum’s calendar for1986 and featured a Ford trimotor airliner from the 1920’s, flying sight-seers over Niagara Falls. The other painting was of the world-record aviator Wiley Post, downed in Siberia with his monoplane “Winnie Mae” (both in the Smithsonian Museum’s permanent collection), Washington, DC; 2nd Prize in the Chamber of Commerce-AAO “Buffalo Scene I” competition, c1974, Buffalo, NY; He won several awards, honors and scholarships while he studied at the Pratt Institute, NYC; He received a battlefield commission for his service in WWII.

Permanent displays: The painting “Steel Belief” is one of many, in the National Gallery of Art Collection, Washington, DC; A 168 foot mural featuring 222 years of history, Bethlehem, PA (exact location unknown); several murals depicting activities of the Iroquois Indian Confederacy, Tower Hall (now the Kimball Tower), University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY; “Golden Age of Flight” and “Winnie Mae” paintings are in the permanent collection, Smithsonian Museum, Washington, DC; Hugh donated several watercolors and sketches to Canisius College, Buffalo, NY.

For possible additional information or images from this artist, please visit the AskArt link

(Rewritten & compiled chronologically by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY, meibohmfinearts.com, March/2008 [updated 10/10/12], from sources: Our internal records; Semper Fi: The Definitive Illustrated History of the U.S. Marines, by H. Avery Chenoweth, Brooke Nihart, 2005; The Complete Book of Drawing and Painting, by Hugh Laidman, 1974; Figures/Faces: A Sketcher's Handbook, by Hugh Laidman, 1979; The Buffalo News, article “Smithsonian Honors Artist Laidman”, Nov. 4th, 1985; The Buffalo News, obituaries, June 1, 1987; Canisius College “Citation for the Conferral of the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters upon Hugh Laidman”, James M. Demske, S.J. President of Canisius College, 1986; The Buffalo-Currier Express, article “New Art Book Is Inspiring”, by Anne McIlhenney Matthews, artist quote, Jan., 1974; The Buffalo-Currier Express, article “For Tyro Artist”, by Nancy Tobin Willig, circa May, 1974; The Buffalo Evening News, article, “‘How-to’ for artists”, 1974; The Buffalo-Currier Express, article “WNY Artist’s New Book Tells How to Draw Animals”, by Joan E. Given, Nov. 23, 1975; photo by Betty Laidman; familysearch.org, New York State Census, 1925; laidman.org, 'Person Sheet: Misc. Notes; moma.org, PDF, "EXHIBITION OF BATTLE PICTURES BY UNITED STATES MARINES OPENS AT MUSEUM OF MODERN ART", MOMA_1943_0062_1943-11-09_431109-58.pdf?2010; marines.mil, PDF, “75 Years of Marine Corps Aviation-A Tribute”, 1986, 75 Years of Marine Corps Aviation - A Tribute PCN 19000416100_1.pdf.)
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