Mendocino Heritage Artist Hilda Pertha (1911-2011)
Accomplished in sculpture, prints, water media, collage and industrial design, Hilda Pertha worked primarily in oil. Her work is based on natural rhythms with a slant toward abstraction. Late oils done en plein air explore forest and garden themes. Her spectacular abstract oils have been called “visual music,” and a French critic once wrote, “Hilda Pertha’s compositions are animated by wind, fog, and other rhythms which affect the soul while out in nature.”
European travels, and years of residence in New York, Paris and other metropolitan centers have had their influence, but Hilda Pertha’s work also affirms her profound connection to the fjords of Norway, the mountains and coastline of Southern France, the forests and gardens of the Mendocino Coast, and Mendocino Bay in all its moods, a constant presence just outside her Main Street, Mendocino studio.
Hilda Pertha’s painting career was launched in 1944 with her critically acclaimed first solo exhibit, held at the Philadelphia Art Alliance. The exhibit sold out, causing Pertha to question herself, asking if work so attuned to popular taste be serious art? Did her work offer the public only a cheerful diversion from the war? The work was first rate, but Hilda Pertha’s rigorous integrity caused her to step away from the burgeoning acclaim for a time, to find the answers she sought. During this period, Pertha distinguished herself in commercial textile design, giving herself the freedom to focus on her painting, and reexamine her priorities as an artist, without pressure to exhibit.
Since then, Pertha has exhibited in museums and galleries in the United States, South America, and Europe. WESTART magazine has published over 200 of her articles on art and painting.
The Hilda Pertha / Connie Korbel-Mickey Collaboration
Invited in 2012 by Collections Specialist Jason Stieber to be included in the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art, HILDA PERTHA, one of six Mendocino Heritage Artists, was the first painting instructor at William Zacha’s Mendocino Art Center, beginning in 1960… Hilda was a prolific, accomplished international artist with an exceptional intellect who also wrote and taught. I am honored to have her life legacy entrusted to me for publication on her behalf. I once asked Hilda how long it had taken her to complete a painting she had just signed. She said, “All my life.” Hilda passed on May 18, 2011 just seven months from turning 100.
– Connie Korbel-Mickey
Hilda Pertha’s friend, colleague, archivist, and chosen biographer, Connie Korbel-Mickey has created an ongoing exploration of Pertha’s life and work at http://hildapertha.blogspot.com/
Articles by Hilda Pertha, and articles about her, excerpts from her journals, discussions of her work, biographical material including a detailed CV, photographs of her artwork, and personal photographs, all are here in gorgeous abundance.
Of special interest, Korbel-Mickey has begun the task of transcribing and posting Hilda Pertha’s WESTART interviews and other articles. Many are online already, illustrated with artwork and personal photographs from the Pertha collection. http://hildapertha.blogspot.com/
Connie Korbel-Mickey may be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hilda Pertha in Her Own Words
Born in 1911, in New Jersey, I have devoted a lifetime to art. My primary medium is oil, with periods of exploration into sculpture, prints, water media, collage and industrial design. Dividing my time between city and country living, I spent the early years in the Philadelphia area. I moved to New York City in 1946, left for Europe in 1954, then returned to the USA and San Francisco in 1959.Dorr Bothwell persuaded me to come back to the United States. She wanted to take a sabbatical and asked me to take over her classes. Dorr Bothwell is also the reason I came to Mendocino in 1960, as the first painting teacher at the new Mendocino Art Center. A mutual acquaintance had recommended her to Bill Zacha; she asked me to come hold the job for her. I never intended to stay in Mendocino; I kept leaving, but something always pulled me back. Over time I have returned to Europe for sojourns in Paris and Norway, but I have lived in Mendocino since 1979, painting, exhibiting, writing and giving occasional seminars and lectures. At present, I am working on a number of canvasses, most with garden themes. – Hilda Pertha, Mendocino (2008)