Eric J. Hall, longtime illustrator, celebrated painter, and mentor, has died at 93


Eric J. Hall, 93, of Bala Cynwyd, lifelong artist, longtime illustrator, award-winning art director, celebrated painter, and mentor, died Friday, Oct. 27, of complications after heart surgery at Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood.

For more than seven decades, Mr. Hall created notable advertising designs, beguiling illustrations, and colorful paintings in Liverpool, England; Washington; and Philadelphia. Before that, he drew cartoons and pictures for grade school classmates in Liverpool and painted plaster ducks his mother sold to local gift shops.

He painted most often in oils but also produced pieces in acrylic, pastels, watercolor, and sketches. He depicted abstracts, geometrics, portraits, landscapes, and still life, and remains a featured artist at the Pennsylvania Convention Center’s West Wing Art Collection.

His works have also been sold and exhibited at Gallery Siano, Pennswood Art Gallery, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia Sketch Club, Woodmere Art Museum, and elsewhere. His 10-foot by 6-foot painting “Expressway” resides permanently at the Convention Center.

Mr. Hall retired from his advertising work in 1996, but he never stopped creating, and an unfinished painting remains on his easel. “I paint abstracts, and I paint realistic art as the mood strikes me,” he said on his website erichallpaintings. “At 93 years old, I see no reason to confine myself. I paint. I write. I love.”

He became a full-time painter after he retired. His work ranged from miniature to large in scale and size, and often featured saturated colors and arresting shapes. Former Inquirer art critic Edward J. Sozanski said in 2004 that Mr. Hall’s abstract paintings “generate an uncommon amount of visual sizzle” and “lights up the gallery like a beacon.”

He often doodled concepts as they came to him on napkins and Post-it notes, and he expanded many of them into more complex expressions. His Facebook page shows the variety of his conceptions. “When I retired from the ad world, I wanted to do something completely different as a painter, so I let my imagination loose on a much larger canvas,” he said.

Eric John Hall was born March 2, 1930, in the West Derby section of Liverpool. He left school at 15 to help support his family during World War II, and his father suggested he work as a carpenter. But his creative instincts led him to apply for a job at the Lee & Nightingale advertising firm, and he was hired on the same day as an illustrator.

He came to the United States when he was 22, worked briefly for the Washington Post, and then spent decades as an illustrator and art director with advertising firms. He relocated to Philadelphia in 1970, was art director at Lewis & Gillman advertising, and ran his own art direction and illustration firm from 1981 to 1995.

He studied at the Corcoran Art School in Washington in the 1960s and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1999 and 2000. His work appeared in National Geographic and countless other publications, and he mentored young artists wherever he worked.

“I had no formal art education to speak of. Yet I was always making art.”

Eric J. Hall

Mr. Hall married Jean Dingwall in 1952, and they had daughters Erica and Jennifer. After a divorce, he met Maureen Maguire in Rittenhouse Square, and they married in 1973, and lived in Yardley and Philadelphia before moving to Bala Cynwyd about six years ago. His former wife died earlier.

Mr. Hall studied history and traveled with his wife to Europe, Mexico, and elsewhere. He told his family stories about growing up in Liverpool and surviving the German bombing blitz in 1941. He loved the Beatles, attended the Philadelphia Orchestra often, and routinely listened to Beethoven and other favorite composers as he painted.

He helped his daughter Erica develop her own artistic skills, and their time together in his studio when she was young remains an inspiration to her. “It was like magic,” she said. Even their last conversation included words about favorite works. “Art bookended our entire relationship,” she said.

He would chat with practically anyone and liked to leave his wife romantic notes around the house. In a tribute, his family said he was “a kind, generous, witty, eloquent, and endlessly creative soul who was forever young at heart.”

His wife said: “He had a very strong sense of fairness and righteousness, and he wasn’t afraid to stand up for wrongs that should be righted. He was hopelessly romantic, a great storyteller, and a loyal and kind friend.”

In addition to his wife and daughters, Mr. Hall is survived by a grandson and other relatives. Two brothers died earlier.

A private service was held earlier.

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