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Trew Hocker (1913 – 1963)

Untitled (Elevated Platform), 1950, oil on canvas, signed and dated lower right, 30 x 54 inches, presented in a period frame


Trew Hocker was an American Scene and modernist painter, who was born in Sedalia, Missouri. He studied art at the University of Missouri, the Kansas City Art Institute, and the St. Louis School of Fine Arts, as well as with Thomas Hart Benton. In 1933, Hocker began exhibiting publicly and won second prize at the Missouri State Fair. The same year he founded an arts club in his hometown, together with nine other young painters. Two years later in 1935 and then again in 1937, Hocker won additional prizes at the Missouri State Fair. Later during the Great Depression, Hocker served as a District Supervisor in the WPA arts program and exhibited at the Kansas City Art Institute. In the late 1930s, he painted very large murals depicting his home state for the New York Worlds Fair and the Golden Gate International Exposition and completed a mural for the University City, Missouri Post Office in 1940.

With the outbreak of World War II, Hocker served in the United States Army eventually earning the rank of captain. During the war, Hocker exhibited paintings in exhibitions for military personnel in the American Air Force Technical Training Command and in an exhibition entitled “Solider Art” at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. In 1947 after his discharge from the Army, Hocker moved to New York City and held well publicized exhibitions of his paintings in his MacDougall Street apartment and his paintings were included in group shows at  the National Academy of Design and the Brooklyn Museum. During the summer of 1948, Hocker taught together with Louis and Elsie Freund at the recently founded Art School of the Ozarks before traveling to Paris for a year of additional study at Grande Chaumiere with Fernand Leger and Andre Lhote.

After his Paris sojourn, Hocker returned to New York City where he painted Untitled (Elevated Platform). Hocker's recently acquired French training is evident in this work. There is a shift from an American Scene aesthetic to a cubist-informed modernism. Space is flattened and simplified as broad areas of color take the place of three-dimensional modeling. Hocker's figures have become angular and his palette is a striking blend of earth-toned browns and vibrant greens and blues with touches of orange and pink which creates a since of depth.

Although Hocker continued his fine art practice through the end of his life, during the 1950s, he worked primarily as a critically acclaimed set designer for television and stage, including Guys and Dolls, NBC’s Opera Theater, and Ellery Queen.  Hocker’s work is in the collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City.  He is listed in Who Was Who in American Art and all other standard references.


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