About Charles Hubbell

World Famous Aviation Artist

Charles Hubbell’s work is known as one of the world’s best pictorial histories of aviation. His art has been displayed in the White House, museums, libraries, palaces, airports and private homes. His serendipitous relationship with Thompson Products in Cleveland, Ohio gave aviation a beautiful, colorful record of its history in accurate detail.

Excerpts from Aviation’s Pictorial Historian by G. Reiss, Charles H. Hubbell 1899-1971 by B. Wilson 

Charles Hubbell was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1899. As a boy of 10 he became interested in aviation when a friend gave him an aeronautical magazine and he became an avid model airplane builder. Before he completed high school, he had designed and built many models as well as a man-sized glider. He graduated from the Cleveland School of Art in 1923. He traded his early paintings for flight time, soloing in 1925. He received CAA pilots License number 9792.

Charles worked as a commercial artist for several years painting airplanes mostly as a hobby as there was little demand for aviation art at that time. Cliff Henderson, the director of the National Air Races had seen Hubbell’s airplane paintings and had used them on his air race posters and programs. Cliff arranged a meeting with Fred Crawford, Chairman of Thompson Products, who sponsored the Thompson Trophy Races. This was the famous unlimited closed course race that started in 1929.

Henderson suggested that Charles paint the winners each year for a calendar. Fred Crawford agreed with great enthusiasm and sealed the deal with a handshake. That started a 30-year project for Hubbell…painting airplanes for Thompson.

The first calendar was produced in 1939 and consisted of the first nine Thompson Trophy winners and four airliners. On each monthly picture, Hubbell faithfully gave the details of the subject aircraft—its make and type, specifications and performance data, engine and types. Each year thereafter the calendars featured a theme along with a section of Hubbell’s paintings. This panorama of aviation history continued through 1969 when Charles retired, followed by an additional four years with a series called the “Best of Hubbell”. The calendars would become the most authentic and complete history of aviation ever to be assembled so beautifully.

Charles Hubbell was the world’s best-known artist-historian of the early air age. He was a stickler for detail and he went to great lengths to assure accuracy, not only for the aircraft, but the backgrounds as well. He would traveled more than 65,000 miles in a single year to obtain technical information to stamp his paintings with authenticity, and to capture the clouds and terrain that set the mood of the many colorful scenes depicted in his work.

During his association with TRW, Hubbell had created 32 calendars and more than 375 individual oil paintings. His watercolors and drawings number over 600. Hubbell’s paintings have hung in the white house, in museums, palaces, libraries, and homes of countless thousands of aviation buffs throughout the world.