By LINDA STEIN
The art of portraiture is alive and well in the skilled hands of Christie L. Hunt.
The Wayne artist will soon have the honor of a portrait she painted of retired Rear Admiral Thomas Lynch on display in the Hart room of Mahan Hall on the Naval Academy campus in Annapolis, Maryland. It will be unveiled June 26.
“I would not call myself a photo realist,” said Hunt, 53. “I paint the subject in an environment not an environment with the subject in them. I think a lot of the traditional realist painters treat the subject and the environment they’re in differently. I’m mainly concerned with the subject and everything else is manipulated around the subject, the light, the room, the time. I take a lot of artistic license, as well.”
“I don’t really care to be faithful to the interior or the realism in front of me,” said Hunt. “I tend to be very faithful and very committed to my subject. And I’ll manipulate anything and everything around it to say what I have to say.”
“I think it still maintains this realistic sense,” she said. Someone once told her that her portraits were so real they were almost surreal, she said.
“It’s realistic but it’s my reality,” Hunt said.
Hunt gets to know her subjects well before she begins a portrait and uses photographs as an aide since busy people can’t be expected to sit still for their portraits for weeks on end. She tries to capture the essence of the person, often showing a telling detail.
Hunt paints on wood rather than canvas and, using as many as 12 very thin layers of oil paint, she makes her portraits come alive. While living on a yacht in the Bahamas with her second husband, she discovered that marine grade plywood serves her purposes well.
Hunt studied at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and then spent four years honing her craft in Italy. She counts Amerighi da Caravaggio as an influence.
“I was lucky the school that I chose was Tyler,” said Hunt. “Tyler had a lot of very independent professors there who were very strong personalities. You took your classes and it was up to you which direction you were going to go and develop yourself. They were there to help you. It wasn’t as though you were entering a school and there was a methodology.”
“In Rome of course there is no one school either,” she said. “I had to work through a lot of styles. There was a lot on our plates.”
“I’m coming out of left field as a portrait artist,” she said. “I had my own path I took. I’m very grateful for my education. It’s given me a lot of freedom.”
It took Hunt years to find her forte. Before specializing in portraits, she painted many landscapes and seascapes while living on the Eastern shore of Maryland.
“I love doing seascapes because the colors are so interesting,” she said.
When her second marriage ended, she was drawn back to Pennsylvania in 2010. After growing up in Fairview Village in Montgomery County, Hunt feels at home in Wayne, where she lives with her miniature Schnauzer, Boomer.
Her son, Llewellyn Hunt, 25, is a member of the First Troop Philadelphia City Calvary (Pennsylvania National Guard). After deployments to Iraq and Kuwait, he is working on a master’s degree at Sciences Politiques in Paris. Her daughter, Gwen Hunt, 24, an ensign in the U.S. Navy, is finishing her first year at the Geisel School of Medicine of Dartmouth College.
One of Hunt’s favorite paintings is called “Young Trooper.” The youth depicted is not an actual person but represents many youthful troopers reflecting “the culture of the institution,” and was commissioned by the archivist of the First Troop Philadelphia Calvary, she said. She also painted a formal portrait of former Troop Captain, David Bruce Thayer.
She’s working on a 90-inch tall full length painting of Capt. Tyler Hathaway, the outgoing captain of the First Troop Philadelphia City Calvary. When it’s finished this fall Hunt plans to have a show of some of her work at the Philadelphia Armory, which she said was “a fabulous venue.”
Over the years, she’s given many of her pictures away to friends, she said. But now, with the unveiling of Lynch’s portrait, she’s calling them and telling them: “Remember that painting you have. It may be worth something now. I hope you still have it.”
Lynch, the former superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy and a 1964 graduate who now resides in Villanova said he’s quite happy with the portrait.
“She did a wonderful job,” said Lynch, the president of the Union League of Philadelphia. “I was very pleased.”
Among her subjects, Hunt painted a former under secretary of Homeland Security and also the portrait of Lieutenant General Carlo Magrassi, Italian Air Force, and chief of the cabinet of the Italian Ministry of Defense. She presented the portrait to General Magrassi and his staff at the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C. in September 2013. Other notable works include her portraits of Campbell Soup Co. heir, N. Peter Hamilton and Main Line socialite Catherine Strawbridge Klaus.
One of her favorite subjects was Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, who Hunt called “a very warm and confident person.”
“I really felt like I captured him,” she said.
She’s also painted Jack Tomarchio, her significant other, and is shown with that painting at his Newtown Square home.
“He’s my biggest cheerleader,” said Hunt. “I think every artist needs that even if you pick up the watercolors once a week for yourself or you’re the best artist in the world. You need one person who is really your rock, your support, your cheerleader. I think all artists need that.”
For more information visit: www.clhportraits.com.