Art has been a part of Linda Hartough’s life for as long as she can remember. The celebrated golf landscape painter declared herself an artist at age 6 and, by the time she was in high school, had decided she’d rather eke out a living as a “starving artist” than take a nine-to-five job.
“When I was about 6 years old, I realized that not everybody had that kind of artistic talent and people kept telling me that what I did was really great,” Hartough said. “That was when I realized I was an artist and that realization really shaped the rest of my life.”
After graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1970, Hartough made a living selling Western art, Americana and landscape oil paintings. Her big break came in 1984, when the Augusta National Golf Club commissioned her to paint its 13th hole, launching a prestigious niche art career that would eventually earn her a lifetime achievement award from Golf Digest.
By 1988, Hartough was focusing her talents solely on golf landscape art. The shrewd career move attracted the attention of the United States Golf Association, which commissioned her to do the annual paintings for the U.S. Championships just two years later. Hartough is the only artist ever commissioned by the USGA and the R&A to do annual paintings and prints of the U.S. Open and British Open Championship venues.
Hartough’s work conveys tangible emotions one wouldn’t expect to find in landscape paintings, which are the result of her unique artistic process. She constructs her composition using photos of the location that span seasons and years –all to ensure that she gets everything from the lighting to the clouds just right.
“The game of golf is a discipline and I relate to it on that sort of metaphysical level,” Hartough said. “I really study these courses to get the lighting I want and make the drama and the feelings come out in that painting. I’m conveying feelings and experiences that golfers have had on the course and, at the same time, creating a landscape work of art.”
While Hartough’s reconstructed golf landscape paintings take golfers on an emotional journey, they’ve taken her all over the world. She’s visited hundreds of golf courses and painted at least 50 different courses during her career – some multiple times. Having a favorite painting would be almost as sacrilegious as having a favorite child, but Hartough confesses a particular fondness for her painting of the ninth hole at Royal County Down, as well as some of her more recent paintings of the course at the Augusta National Golf Club. She has also painted the 18th hole at the Harbour Town Golf Links, home of the 2014 RBC Heritage tournament.
Hartough is, without a doubt, the most prominent artist working in the golf landscape niche today. Her paintings are included in the collections of prestigious golf clubs, including Augusta National, Laurel Valley and Pine Valley. Several of her original works are included in the private collections of golf legend Jack Nicklaus, and golf course architects Rees Jones and the late Robert Trent Jones, Sr.
Despite the high-profile collectors, the golf art genre is largely overlooked by the rest of the art world; a fact that has not gone unnoticed by Hartough.
“I’ve always been aware since I chose the niche of golf landscape that I was somehow out of the art world in general,” she said. “That always bothered me — that (golf art) wasn’t considered a viable genre for the art world to consider.”
Not content to take the exclusion from the rest of the art world lying down, Hartough joined with a group of likeminded golf artists to form the not-for-profit Academy of Golf Art in 2004. The society of professional golf artists raises awareness of the golf art genre and seeks to develop and foster a collector network for emerging golf artists.
The coming 2014 U.S. Open Championship will serve as a bittersweet moment for Hartough, who has decided that her 25th and most recent U.S. Open series installment – 9th Hole, Pinehurst No. 2 – will be her last. With U.S. Open-related paintings and promotions off her schedule, Hartough hopes to travel the world visiting courses she’s never painted and working on smaller projects. She’s also considering working on a book that would take readers through her fascinating artistic process.
For more information on Linda Hartough’s golf landscape paintings, visit www.hartough.com. To learn more about the Academy of Golf Art, visit academyofgolfart. com/index.htm.