Gittins was a portraitist grandeur, teacher and even greater man than artist.
Gittins was born in the small town of Kidderminster, Worcester, England.
In 1946, he came to the United States
as an exchange student. In 1947 he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree
He then was appointed to the University
of Utah art department
faculty that same year. He headed the University's art department from 1956 to
he came to the University
Gittins brought with him a powerful concept of academic realism to enhance the
still lingering effects of French Impressionism, already established but not
fine tuned. He chose academic methods to express simple truths about humans by
way of the human face and body. He admonished students to "go
beyond pretty rendering" in their search for something authentic. As time
progressed, he experienced firsthand the changing face of art. Gittins found
himself in a field which sought to challenge the establishment and abandon
tradition. Gittins stood mostly alone as the majority of art teachers and
Historians went forward preaching the abandonment of classical foundation as
important, in favor of the value of being different. It’s amusing how everyone
was trying to be different, going to great lengths to follow the modern crowd,
and for doing so, unknowingly they were all basically choosing to be the same.
As Gittins practiced the classical school of figure and portraiture, he became
one of our countries finest portrait painters. His paintings rival
Sargent’s but with tightness and color.
He always strived for his
paintings to have a more-so-ness about them. He had family members of his subject
in his paintings; tell him that the painting looked more like the person than
the person themselves. As a teacher, he used student’s
drawings and paintings to illustrate anatomical mistakes. At the models brake
time, he would grab a drawing or painting from the easel of a student and turn
it to face the whole class room and ask the rest of the students, what if you
were walking down the beach and you saw this person as they had drawn them, walking
towards you. What would you say to the person you were with about the drawings
deformity? He emphasized to his students that the amateur always maximized the
minimal and minimize the maximal. He spoke of heaven,
saying there would be never ending lines of interesting models of every sort to
draw and paint.
He worked mostly with
pastels, oils, charcoals, and pencil. In 1981 he died leaving a wealth of
paintings at the University of Utah
and Public buildings around the country as well as a legacy of Utah
artists such as Ed Maryon, Greg Hull, Steven Heward and Danny Baxter.