Edward Wilson Hewett died peacefully at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital on May 16th, after a long illness. He was 88 years old.
Edward was born in Los Angeles, Calif., in 1926, the son of George Ainslie Hewett, a well-known Louisville artist, and Gladys Wilson Hewett, the daughter of Frederick Wilson, of English ancestry, who from 1895 to 1923 was the leading designer of figurative stained glass windows for the Tiffany Studios in New York. Hewett’s paternal grandparents were Edward Anderson Hewett, a Louisville banker, and Ida Ainslie Hewett, whose father’s foundry business built Louisville’s first bridge across the Ohio River.
His parents returned to the Hewett home in Louisville, Ky., when he was a child, and he was educated in Louisville public schools, and was influenced by his father’s work to think of art as a career. Following a two-year stint in the Army, he attended the Cincinnati Art Academy, from which he received a scholarship to study abroad. He later returned to complete coursework for his four-year diploma from CAA, going on to attend the University of Louisville for three years, earning his B.S. and M.A. in art degrees. Ted, as he was always known, married fellow artist Jeanne Peltier in May 1951.
He received a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Rome in 1954-55, and after extended travels in Italy, France, Austria, and England, the couple returned to the States, Ted having received a job offer from Ohio State University in Columbus, where their daughter Ainslie and son Robert were born. One-man shows, regional and local shows, and intensive teaching duties plus periods as gallery director and department chairman, kept Ted very busy. For relaxation, he and Jeanne participated in the fringes of the folk music scene in Columbus, playing guitar and banjo and singing. He took a leave of absence in 1970 to teach at Reading University in England, where he taught painting, filmmaking, and photography.
The Hewett family had enjoyed Vineyard summers since 1966 in their Campground cottage, and had discussed moving to the Vineyard. In 1971, Hewett made inquiries which resulted in an offer of a job at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS). The opportunity to initiate an art program at MVRHS was attractive, as was a major change in environment and lifestyle. They moved to the Vineyard that year. The art program at MVRHS as developed by Hewett offered a wide range of activities, and was strongly supported by the community and the school administration.
In 1978, Hewett (with William F. Axton of the University of Louisville English department) began a book to be published as “Convivial Dickens” (Ohio University Press, 1984); a short sabbatical enabled him to research illustrational material in the Library of the British Museum, London. In 1981 he retired from full-time teaching, but taught courses at the Nathan Mayhew Seminars, two on art subjects and one on the poet Wallace Stevens. He also taught summer-session courses in painting and art history at the University of Kentucky.
Writer, poet, teacher — artist in many mediums — Ted is probably best known on the Island for his painted wooden chests, which he began to make after retiring. Over 200 chests are in private collections all over the country. Many of his paintings, drawings, and watercolors have gone into public and private collections. The “childhood themes” developed for chests brought requests for murals with similar themes. In 1982 he painted the mural “The Book Tree” for the Vineyard Haven Public Library, and the following year did a mural for the children’s area of the Chilmark library, followed by a mural for the library in Plainsboro, N.J., depicting a July 4th town picnic ca. 1900.
In 1982 he and William Honey, then president of the Martha’s Vineyard Bank, who had exhibited ship paintings by Capt. John J. Ivory in the bank, formed the Captain Ivory Society. In the ensuing years, 200 Ivory paintings were catalogued and photographed by Hewett, Honey, and Chris Morse of the Granary Gallery in West Tisbury, and in 2001 Hewett compiled for the society a checklist of Ivory’s work, with 100 color illustrations.
Ted could fix, build, or mend most anything if he had his pocket knife, a Phillips screwdriver, and a hammer. He was a man of many talents. What he called “hobbies” included, at one time or another, playing piano, guitar and banjo, collecting early jazz and folk recordings, gardening, Mahjong, and digging for old bottles, which might take him into ditches, derelict buildings, and old dump sites. Finding antique toys was a lifetime pleasure, and over the years he built up a collection which has been exhibited several times on the Vineyard, and has often given slide talks on old toys to public groups. He also enjoyed being the “art consultant” at the MVCS Thrift Shop in Vineyard Haven, where he worked one day a week pricing and preparing donated art for sale either in the store or in its annual Chicken Alley Art Show.
Private study included such things as geology, poetry, the French and German languages, Shakespeare, and plays generally. (Watching very early black-and-white Mickey Mouse movies with his grandson Greg came high on the list.)
From 2004 on there was much painting activity — the “gold circles period” — resulting in numerous local exhibitions, including at the Dragonfly Gallery, the Chilmark Library Gallery, and the Library Gallery in Lexington. A number of these paintings went into private collections.
He leaves Jeanne, his wife of 64 years, his daughter Ainslie Hewett Vorel and her husband Joseph Vorel, and their children, Jennifer and Gregory; his son Robert Hewett and his wife Patty, and their children Chris Barstow, Matthew Barstow, Ruthann, and Grace. He leaves his brother, Ainslie Hewett ll of Louisville, Ky., and nieces and nephews also of Louisville.
Gifts in Ted’s memory may be sent to Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, P.O. Box 1748, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568, or to the charity of your choice.
There will be a gathering of Ted’s friends and family on Saturday, August 8, from 4 to 6 pm at the Hewett home in Edgartown.