WAACNewsletter
Volume 17, Number 3 .... September 1995

Obituary Notice:

R. Bruce Hutchison
Textile Conservator

by Jim Bernstein

On May 17, 1995, a few weeks before his fiftieth birthday, R. Bruce Hutchison died in San Francisco, CA, following a year-long battle with cancer. Bruce Hutchison was one of the most well-known and respected textile conservators of his generation.

Born in Hollywood, California on June 11,1945, Bruce graduated from North Hollywood High in 1963 and attended Washington State University from 1963 to 1966, majoring in languages. During the war in Vietnam he served in the U.S. Army, assisting wounded soldiers in a second stage MASH unit in Korea. Returning to the States, he worked in San Francisco for Trans World Airlines, then toured Europe and Asia for a year (working part-time, including bartending and modeling in Japan, appearing in "Western" notions ads). He completed his B.A. in Art (textiles) at San Francisco State University in 1973.

His first conservation work was in San Francisco in 1973, under the tutelage of Ms. Pat Reeves (visiting from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art). Hutchison worked closely with Anna and Ralph Bennett to establish a textile conservation facility at San Francisco's M.H. de Young Museum. There, he helped develop innovative techniques for tapestry and costume conservation that became models for other textile conservation practices throughout the country.

In 1975 he was awarded a National Endowment for the Art Fellowship which enabled him to spend a year to work and study textile conservation at ateliers in Denmark, Sweden, England, and Switzerland. Upon his return to the U.S., Hutchison became Textile Conservator for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. He was instrumental in preparing two major exhibitions -- "Five Centuries of Tapestry" and "A Century of Brides"--and contributed to the training of numerous textile department interns and volunteers. From 1979 to 1982, Hutchison established a free-lance conservation practice in San Francisco.

From 1982 to 1992, Hutchison was Textile Conservator for the Textile Conservation Laboratory of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, New York City, where he worked to develop a full service facility with an emphasis on large scale tapestries and textiles. In 1992, Bruce returned to San Francisco, to re-establish a free-lance conservation practice.

Hutchison played an active part in the formation and development of several professional associations. From 1986 to 1988, he was President of the Textile Conservation Group, N.Y.C. He also helped to establish the Textile Specialty Group of A.I.C. He served as an officer for the BAACG and was a regular participant in WAAC activities. In 1987 he was asked to deliver a paper at "The Conservation of Tapestries and Embroideries" meeting at the IRPA, Brussels (his paper was Gluttony and Avarice: Two Different Approaches). Throughout his career, he was committed to the training of students, and was known for emphasizing meticulous care and craftsmanship in all aspects of studio work.

In addition to textiles, Hutchison was avidly fond of horticulture, culinary arts, dancing (Swing, Ballroom, and Western Squares), esthetics and design (especially Asian art and antiques), reading good literature, and listening to classical music.

Among colleagues and friends, Bruce will be remembered for his tall and dapper figure, his blond hair and distinguished-looking beard, his flashy socks, the "Barberini" bee pin he wore on his lapel (given to him by Curator Das Cavallo, in reference to the Barberini Tapestries at St. John the Divine), his dry humor, and his loud and hearty laughter. His highly convivial and bright manner, his dedication and his bravura will be missed.

Memorial contributions may be made In Honor of R. Bruce Hutchison to the FAIC: Professional Education Fund, c/o AIC, 1717 K. Street, N.W. Suite 301, Washington, D.C. 20006.

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