On a Friday afternoon, the 20th May 1892, at the old Wynnewood grounds, our Club first made the acquaintance of Hugh Henry Breckenridge. According to the Club’s history, it was a policy of the Club to “cultivate, encourage and enroll young students,” and the way they went about this in 1892 was “to play a game of baseball with the male students of the Pennsylvania Academy of [the] Fine Arts….” Mr. Breckenridge, a student at PAFA, was playing shortstop on the opposing team.
Born in Leesburg, Virginia in 1870, young Hugh was fortunate to have a teacher, Paul Laughlin, who urged him into art school. In 1887, Hugh entered into the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In 1892, the same year as the baseball game, Hugh was awarded a scholarship that allowed him to travel to Europe and study at the Academie Julian in Paris. When in 1894 he returned from Europe, he joined the teaching staff of PAFA and would teach there for the next forty years. It was also in 1894 that Brecky demonstrated his acumen by joining our Club. He became Director of Fine Arts at the Maryland Institute in Baltimore in 1919.
Over his long career his talent found successful expression in many painting styles. His work became less representational as he evolved. In 1904, he had acquired the manner of the Impressionist. By 1922 he was exhibiting works of Abstraction. Nevertheless, when it suited him, he could revert to earlier styles. Also, his life included many friends, Willam Merritt Chase, Charles Demuth, Robert Henri, Walter Elmer Schofield who accompanied him on his first trip to Europe, and John Sloan. Brecky became a dear friend of fellow PAFA teacher and Club member Thomas Anshutz. Together they established the Darby School of Painting. When Anshutz died in 1912, Brecky was among the pallbearers. In later years, Brecky opened his own school in East Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Brecky married twice. His first wife was Roxanna Grace Holme. Of their two children, one died young. After the death of his first wife, he would marry again, Dorothy Dozier, who was one of his students.
Hugh Henry Breckenridge died in 1937. After sixty-five years, the spirit of Brecky returns to our Club in the manifestation of a large painting entitled “In the Studio.” The restored work is presently hanging in our library at the club.
Oh, and in that baseball game of 1892, the Philadelphia Sketch Club beat the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts by a whopping 15 to 7.