George Hitchcock was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1850. He was a descendant of Roger Williams, one of the founders of Rhode Island. He graduated from Brown University 1872 and then went on to Harvard Law School. He practiced law for several years in Providence and in New York before deciding in 1879 to become an artist, and at age 29 left to study in Europe. He briefly studied in London and then in Paris at the Académie Julian under Gustave Boulanger. George Hitchcock continued his studies with Jules Lefebvre in Düsseldorf and in The Hague with H. W. Mesdag. He eventually settled in Egmond-aan-Zee, near Alkmaar. He spent his summers in the Netherlands and winters in Paris. George Hitchcock became best known for his impressionistic scenes of tulip fields and peasant women in traditional Dutch costume. He also painted religious subjects in contemporary settings. In 1885, Hitchcock attracted notice in the Paris Salon with his “Tulip Growing”, painted in a Dutch garden.
George Hitchcock had a successful career as an artist, exhibiting extensively in Europe and in major U.S. venues, such as the Pennsylvania Academy and the National Academy of Design. He was elected an Associate of the National Academy in 1909. He became well known for his treatment of light and shadow, often surrounding his subjects with auras of light.
He became a chévalier of the French Legion of Honour; a member of the Vienna Academy of Arts and the Munich Secession Society. Among the numerous prizes Hitchcock earned over the course of his career was a gold medal at the Paris Salon of 1887. He was also awarded medals in Berlin, Dresden, Munich, Venice and Vienna. George Hitchcock was the first American to be made a member of the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Vienna, and the first to become an officer of the Order of Franz Josef.
George Hitchcock died of heart disease in Holland in 1913. In the U.S., Hitchcock’s work can be found in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Telfair Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others.