Profile 2023 – A career of creation

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 9, 2023

For nearly seven decades, Robert Hutton, of South Point, has been immersed in the creation of art and, since his retirement from teaching at Marshall University in 1999, he has remained a prolific creator, turning out countless works. 

In 2018, he and his wife, Robin, opened the Hutton Wayfarer Gallery at their farm. However, just as the gallery was beginning to build momentum with its events, they were forced to close to the public due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. 

Their plans to reopen were complicated by another setback in 2021, when Robert was injured in an auto accident, which required a lengthy recovery. 

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But, it was during this recuperation that he resumed and focused more intensely on a series of oil pastel works depicting scenes from the Gospels, which were the focus of an exhibit that marked the gallery’s reopening in late 2022. 

A lay brother with Society of the Divine Word, a Catholic Missionary order, for five years, Hutton’s Christian faith, a focus of the exhibit, has been a major part of his work since his first days as an artist. 

Here, he shares the story behind some key pieces of his work: 


“Our Savior,” by Robert Hutton (Submitted photo)

“Sixty-eight years ago, at the age of 16, I entered my senior year of high school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Soon after, two major events occurred in my life: First, I became passionate about becoming an artist, starting a disciplined self-study of drawing; Second, I had a spiritual conversion. Because of these two factors, towards the end of my senior year, I created my first significant sculpture in clay, a thorn-crowned head of Christ, titled ‘Our Savior.’ 

Being extremely shy, I was shocked one day in class when the principal announced over the PA system to the whole school, ‘Everyone should go see Robert Hutton’s artwork in the hallway display case!’ Later, that spring, my art teacher submitted that sculpture in the 1956 All- Schools’ City Art Exhibition, for which I won a merit award. That began my art journey and I am still plodding. 

The famous writer, Henry James posed three questions to artists: 

1) What were you trying to do? 

2) Did you accomplish your purpose? 

3) Was it worth doing? 

Such practical questions leave me perplexed since I work more intuitively. If I have a plan, it’s usually nebulous, plus the work in progress can 

 veer off in another direction. Robert Leper, a former Carnegie Mellon professor of mine while looking at my work commented, ‘I get it! You’re sparring for an opening!’ I continue to use that method and ‘I find my way by taking it.’” 

“He is Risen, as He Said He Would,” by Robert Hutton (Submitted photo)


“This large oil pastel is one of my favorites in which Christ appears in the early morning radiance of his resurrection. Jesus’ stylized face conveys both human compassion and divine insight. The bold simplicity of color shapes enhances the visual impact. 

On the day of Hutton Wayfarer Gallery reopening exhibition, a woman walked in and upon noticing the image of the risen Christ, she spontaneously exclaimed, ‘That gives me chills!’ What better response could I ask for? I am always pleased when others find meaning and beauty in my work. 

Notes on color: For me, color is the most powerful element of expression and since we have such a dazzling array of colors available today that were unavailable in the past, I want to exploit color to the fullest extent in every possible way. To that end, working in oil pastels has been helpful, particularly describing subjects with diverse, colored contour lines. 

“Where is Jesus?” by Robert Hutton (Submitted photo)


“The three women are perplexed and distressed when they arrive early to find the empty tomb. They witnessed the crucifixion and now this. Imagine what unsettling thoughts and feelings each of them experienced. 

 I sense an endearing innocence about their expressions, despite all. It reminds me of a time when I was lamenting my problems to a spiritual mentor and then he responded matter-of-factly, ‘Do you expect to get off scot-free?’ At times, most all Christians ask, ‘Where is Jesus?’ 

“Were Not Our Hearts Burning” by Robert Hutton (Submitted photo)


“Robert Frost once said, ‘Take that which is ordinary to experience and make it extraordinary to expression.’ In this oil pastel, I adapted his poetic advice as follows: 

Jesus’ glory is veiled so all of the figures appear as ordinary Jewish men. However, the extravagant revelation of Jesus is captured in the expressions and gestures of the two disciples as they traveled to Emmaus.” 

— Robin says the Gospel Series Exhibition will continue through April and may be viewed by appointment by contacting 304-634-8674.