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Jeannette native’s painting to join Latrobe’s art gala display

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Evan Sanders | Trib Total Media
Barbara Nakles, head of Greater Latrobe Art Conservation Trust, speaks at Latrobe Senior High School’s Center for Student Creativity about the pieces of art by the late Hubert J. FitzGerald, on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014.

An idyllic farm scene painted by a Jeannette native will be featured at Greater Latrobe’s Art Gala on Thursday night, displayed beside two others in the senior high school art collection to show the progression of his style.

Hubert FitzGerald painted “Spring Valley Farm” in 1950, but the barn still stands behind Elliot Co. in Jeannette, said Barbara Nakles, chairwoman of the art trust.

The owners of the barn had held on to the painting until recently, when Thomas Sweeney passed away and his estate donated the work within the past month.

FitzGerald’s nephew Rob Domenick said he worked with the Sweeney family to donate the painting, valued by an appraiser at $7,000, so it could be seen and appreciated, rather than collect dust in storage.

“Now here’s a place where it will be seen by everybody for generations to come,” he said, adding that “Uncle Hube” was “an amazing guy, a fabulous person, then on top of that a wonderful artist.”

FitzGerald studied art at Carnegie Tech prior to World War II, then served with the CIA’s predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services, and was shot by a Nazi machine gunner, recovering to earn a Purple Heart.

On returning to Carnegie Tech, FitzGerald finished his studies and continued to produce paintings, including the two in the art collection: “Red Scarf,” a still-life of a scarf draped around a vase of flowers from 1958, and “Pennsylvania Mountain Valley,” an abstract landscape painted in 1963.

The art trust does not always accept donated paintings, but the board saw the value students could glean from comparing the changes in one artist’s style over time.

“He’s moving from very realistic (in the ‘Spring Valley Farm’ work). … Something is happening here, and you have all these angles,” Nakles said.

The latest painting in the collection, “Pennsylvania Mountain Valley,” showcases abstract swaths of shades of brown and red.

“By then he had already changed to go full abstract. He calls this ‘Pennsylvania Mountain Valley,’ and yes, you can see that, sort of,” she said.

“For the art teachers, this will be an interesting group of works, but you can see, not only does the artist change, but the time is changing,” Nakles said.

FitzGerald was 87 when he died in June 2011, just after an exhibit of his work was shown at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art.

Members of the both the Sweeney and FitzGerald families will attend the gala.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or [email protected].

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