DETROIT (AP) – Gerald Parker Hodge, a pioneering, world-renowned medical illustrator and fine artist who specialized in “fool the eye” paintings, has died at his home in Michigan, his daughter said. He was 91.
Hodge died Thursday in Ann Arbor after a fight with cancer, said his daughter and caretaker, Melinda Hodge of Lock Haven, Pa. He was a longtime professor at the University of Michigan, where he founded the master’s program in medical and biological illustration in 1964.
His medical and biological illustrations appeared in hundreds of journals and books and won repeated recognition from the Association of Medical Illustrators.
The students who came out of Hodge’s program at Michigan came to dominate the field so much that five of the six accredited programs in the late 1990s were led by its graduates.
“He was a consummate teacher,” said Gary P. Lees, chair of the medical illustration program at Johns Hopkins University who studied with Hodge at Michigan. “He was gentle yet authoritative with his students.”
At the same time, Hodge became known in the field as an “artist’s artist,” someone who brought an aesthetic excellence to his applied work, as well as to his fine arts work in painting and other media, Lees said.
Hodge’s continued vigor and influence into his 90s was apparent when he gave a demonstration at the illustrators association’s 2011 annual meeting in Baltimore.
“He was such a graphic master at these techniques that the young members just ganged around him,” Lees said. “People knew that if they watched Gerald Hodge at work, they were surely going to learn something.”
He also continued to exhibit his works until about six months before his death, when his final show was at Olivet College, his daughter said.
Besides Hodge’s widely known medical illustrations, his botanical illustrations are part of the prestigious collection of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation at the Carnegie-Mellon University.
“He was a perfectionist,” said Linda Wilson-Pauwels, immediate past president of the Association of Medical Illustrators and a professor at the University of Toronto. “When he got it done, it was absolutely perfect … His aesthetics were incredible.”
Along with Michigan, Hodge taught at institutions including Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans, University of Toronto, Smithsonian Institution and Scottsdale Artists’ School in Arizona.
What made Hodge so notable, those in the field say, was the combination of scientific accuracy, artistic expression and educational excellence.
“He was always teaching. He was so kind and giving,” said association President Jane Hurd. “He was one of the top medical illustrators of the past century.”
As a fine artist, he specialized in a particular pen and ink technique few people can do, his daughter said.
“He lived through his art,” Melinda Hodge said, adding, “I think he’s a person that found the most perfect career in the world for him.”
He was one of seven founding members of the Trompe L’ Oeil Society of Artists, who specialize in works that “fool the eye” with their realism.
Born Dec. 3, 1920, in Denver, Hodge studied painting at the University of Colorado before enlisting in the Army during World War II. He fought in the invasion of Okinawa, a months-long battle between the U.S. and Japan near the end of the war. After the war, he earned his graduate degree in medical art at Johns Hopkins University.
Hodge’s work took him to countries including Brazil, Mexico, Spain and Turkey. The U.S. State Department once sent him to Jordan to teach archaeological illustration to faculty and graduate students at the University of Yarmuke.
Hodge was predeceased by his wife, Claire Ewell Hodge, who he met in an art class and married in 1949.
Along with his daughter, he is survived by a son, John Hodge, of Quincy, Ill. John Hodge said he can see his father’s influence in his two sons, Austin, 19, and Wesley, 16, who are budding musicians.
“It’s that artist gene coming out in a different way, I think,” he said.
Hodge was cremated, and there will be no funeral, according to his wishes. The family will receive friends from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the First Baptist Church in Ann Arbor.
M.L. Johnson reported from Chicago.
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