DeWitt Hardy

DeWitt Hardy, an internationally known watercolorist from York County, died Saturday evening after attending an event at the Barn Gallery in Ogunquit, according to friends and fellow artists.

The 77-year-old South Berwick painter had been at a gala reception for the gallery’s open regional juried show just a short time before.

A total of 72 works of art were chosen by the gallery’s guest curator, Andres Verzosa, from 207 submissions by artists from southern Maine and New Hampshire. One of Hardy’s paintings was among those selected by Verzosa to be in the show.

Verzosa, who served as interim director of the Ogunquit Museum of American Art until recently, said he knew Hardy for years, but got to know him on a much deeper level during his tenure in Ogunquit. Verzosa owned and operated the former Aucocisco Galleries in Portland for 15 years.

“This town is imbued with a certain kind of artistic spirit and it was embodied within the work of DeWitt Hardy,” said Verzosa, noting that Ogunquit was an artist’s colony decades ago.

Verzosa said Hardy was a major force in the southern Maine arts community and beyond. “He was renowned as an international watercolor artist,” he added.

Verzosa saw Hardy at Saturday night’s gala reception and took photographs of him and his former wife, Pat Hardy, who also attended the event.

Verzosa said the arts community in Ogunquit and in Maine is in shock over his sudden death.

“Dear Artgang, I have very sad news. DeWitt died last night,” Hara Harding – manager of the Barn Gallery and secretary for the Ogunquit Art Association – wrote in an email to the arts community Sunday morning.

Harding also posted this message on the gallery’s Facebook page: “DeWitt Hardy spent his last evening doing a lot of the things he loved: being with dear friends at the Barn Gallery in Ogunquit, drinking wine, schmoozing with other artists and talking about art and other esoteric things like life and love and whatever. RIP dear old friend, you are already dearly missed,”

Others who knew Hardy offered their thoughts and prayers at his sudden passing.

“I can not believe this! I, too, am completely at a loss for words. He will certainly be missed by so many. His contributions to the art world were amazing,” Jean Briggs posted on Facebook. “DeWitt, you are going to be missed by so very many people. I am broken hearted.”

Hardy’s wife, Deirdre Williams, said her husband was not only an internationally known artist, but an exceptional teacher, art appraiser and set designer. They met in the 1980s on the set of a show at the Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick.

Hardy taught at Sanctuary Arts, an arts center in Eliot, for several years, his wife said. According to his profile at Sanctuary Arts, Hardy studied art at Syracuse University and was a noted figurative watercolorist. He did 17 one-man shows in New York City and his artwork is represented in 42 museums, including the British Museum, the Smithsonian, the Cleveland Museum and the San Francisco Museum.

“He never stopped working right up until he died,” Williams said.

DeWitt Hardy attends the opening of an exhibit of his work in Ogunquit Saturday night. Photo by Eric Taubert

The biggest loss to the arts community might be his keen ability to appraise the value of art by local artists, and his knowledge of art history in Maine will be hard to replace, she said.

“That is not a transferable skill. It’s not something you can put on a thumb drive,” Williams added.

The Barn Gallery is owned and operated by the Oqunquit Arts Collaborative. Nancy R. Davison of York, past president of the collaborative and its current treasurer, said Hardy was a talented artist and teacher who excelled in watercolor paintings as well as in supporting and teaching aspiring artists.

Davison said she met Hardy years ago and over that time developed an appreciation of his work. He would take walks all over York County to survey possible locales for a painting, including the scenic, ocean walk known as Marginal Way in Ogunquit.

“He was without a doubt the best watercolor artist I’ve ever seen,” Davison said. “He believed in the arts.”

On his website, Hardy left his followers with a few words of wisdom.

“A single life is not so singular that it is only one man living it,” Hardy wrote. “A single life is a collection of many. Some of you have kept me alive, some have given me money for my scribbling, and some have yelled at me to stop horsing around and get to work. I am trying.”

Williams said her husband was born in St. Louis. Plans for his memorial service had not been finalized as of Sunday night.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: