Long regarded as one of the most important interpreters of the Hawaiian landscape, David Howard Hitchcock had a lengthy and prolific career, spanning more than sixty years. His finest period as a landscape artist was from about 1905 to 1930. In addition to his paintings of volcanoes, Hitchcock became widely known for his large dioramas and other mural-size paintings of island scenes. In the early 20th century, Hitchcock was arguably Hawaii's outstanding resident professional artist.
Born in Hilo, Hawai’i, he was the first Hawai’i-born painter to receive formal art training. In Paris, he presented numerous paintings of volcanoes, which circulated widely enough to attract tourist attention to the islands. He depicted the volcanoes in a range of appearances, from fiery explosions to calm renderings of the landscape. During extensive travels in the 1900’s, Hitchcock explored the volcanic regions of the island of Hawai’i. In July 1907 he made his first visit to the island of Kauai, becoming one of the earliest artists to paint Waimea Canyon. He also executed dramatic views of Hawai’i for display on vessels of the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company.
Hitchcock was Jules Tavernier's protégé and principal student. He first met Tavernier in January 1885, when Tavernier made his initial trip to Hilo, Hawai’i, along with landscape painter Joseph Strong. He later recalled that this encounter determined the course of his life: "When I met Tavernier in Hilo with Joe Strong, it was the first time I had ever seen a real artist. He looked at my first efforts in art and encouraged me in my work. Like a parasite, I followed Tavernier and Strong to Kilauea to watch them at their painting."
D. Howard Hitchcock died in Honolulu in 1943. His works reside in the Boston Museum, the Oakland Museum, the Bishop Museum, the Honolulu Museum of Art, and in many very private collections. His magnificent and cherished paintings boldly express, with freely applied paint and fresh tonal range, the luminous, evanescent atmosphere of the islands. An art collector should expect to spend substantial dollars to possess a Hitchcock masterpiece. They do appear with some frequency at auctions, exclusive galleries, and private estate sales.