D. Howard Hitchcock Biography

Born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, David Howard Hitchcock studied drawing at the Punahou School in Honolulu, and after attending Oberlin College in Ohio, he spent 1885-86 at the California School of Design in San Francisco.  On his return to Hawaii, he became a student of Jules Tavernier in Hilo and Honolulu.

The artist shipped off for Paris for further instruction in 1890 and  returned to Hawaii by  1893; on return he was was dubbed "our island painter".  He settled more or less permanently in Honolulu, though he made frequent trips to Hilo and eventually painted on all of  the islands.  He also made several extended trips to the mainland to spend time with old friends in San Francisco.  While visiting, he painted several California scenes.

A talented landscape painter, Hitchcock preferred attenuated horizontal formats.  Although he maintained a firm grasp on form and design, his work is characterized by a greater spontaneity of touch and coloristic breadth than that of Tavernier.  By the early years of this century, Hitchcock stood alone as Hawaii’s outstanding residential professional artist.

Hitchcock’s work in Hawaii made him one of the state’s most famous and influential painters.  He was a founder and chief exhibitor of the Kilohana Art League, a member of the Salmangudi Club of New York, as well as president of the Honolulu Art Association.  His work was exhibited at Gump’s and the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, in a solo exhibit in 1912, at the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1939-40, and at the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego in 1915.  
His works are currently held by the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, the Boston Museum, the Oakland Museum, and the Honolulu Academy of Arts, and in important private collections throughout the US.

Hitchcock's most important work on Maui was created during his first excursions there in 1915 and 1916.  He befriended Samuel and Katherine Baldwin there in 1915 an then returned as their guest in 1916.  The Baldwins provided Howard with a residence and a place to paint during his sojourn there.  Although he exhibited at the Maui County Fair, Howard sold many of his paintings directly to the Baldwins.  This painting was originally purchased by The Baldwins when the paint was still wet and was passed directly to their descendants.  

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi, a journalist for the Star Bulletin wrote a brief article that concisely documents the social, spiritual and natural history of Iao Valley.  Iao Valley, the site of one of Iao Needle is a National Natural Landmark, but the beautiful valley is also the site of Hawaiian creation legends and historic battles.  

According to legend, the demigod Maui and Hina, woman of the moon, raised their daughter, Iao, in the valley. Iao became the lover of a half-man, half-fish god. This angered her father, who turned the man/fish into a pillar of stone now known as Iao Needle.

In ancient Hawaii, valleys such as Iao, which stretch from mountains to the sea, created natural land divisions called ahupuaa. Iao Valley was never part of the ahupuaa system, however, as the land was considered too sacred.

For hundreds of years chiefs, or alii, were laid to rest in secret burial sites along the valley's steep walls. The practice of burying alii in the valley began in the eighth century and continued until 1736, with the burial of King Kekaulike.

Commoners were not permitted into Iao, except during the annual Makahiki festival, which was held on the grassy plateau above the Needle.

There is evidence that Iao was the site of many battles. The most famous conflict was the Battle of Kepaniwai in 1790. As part of his efforts to unite the islands under his rule, King Kamehameha, from the island of Hawaii, battled the forces of King Kahekili for control of Maui.

After a battle in Hana, Kamehameha I and his fleet arrived at Kahului Bay. For two days there was constant fighting with Kalanikupule, son of Kahekili, ruler of Maui. Had they fought face to face, as was customary, it would have been an equal match. However, Kamehameha had obtained a number of muskets, swords, axes, powder and two field cannons from John Young and Isaac Davis, two foreigners from an American schooner.

Kalanikupule's group was cornered in a narrow pass in Iao where the cannons were shot from below. While all the important alii and their families escaped over the mountain to Olowalu, the commoners did not. It is said that their bodies clogged the stream and that the river flowed red with their blood. Accordingly, Kepaniwai translates as "damming of the waters."

For many years the valley remained unoccupied, except perhaps by ghosts. Gradually, as memory of the tragedy faded and newcomers came to the island, Iao Valley was rediscovered and became renowned for its natural grandeur.

In 1962 the U.S. Department of the Interior recognized Iao Valley as a National Natural Landmark. While human activity and the introduction of trees such as kukui, coffee and guava have transformed the ecology of the lower reaches, true native ecosystems still flourish deeper in the valley and near the summit.

Republished from the Honolulu Star Bulletin and Hawaii Nature Center, Iao Valley (Website)