Portraitist Howard Hildebrandt was born in the small town of Allegheny, Pennsylvania (now part of Pittsburgh), where his natural interest in people was evident from an early age. He attended the National Academy of Design in New York; the Julian Academy under Benjamin-Constant and J. P. Laurens in Paris; and was one of a small number of foreigners permitted regular enrollment as an eleve at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
Like John Singer Sargent, Hildebrandt took great care with his backgrounds as he considered them an important part of the portrait. He demonstrated an imaginative and restrained use of color. He painted some outdoor scenes, and was fond of doing outdoor and indoor portraits. One fishing scene, shown at the Herron Art Gallery in Indianapolis, was a watercolor portrait for which he won an American Watercolor Society prize. Hildebrandt was also awarded the Evans Prize and first honor, Associated Artists of Pittsburgh; the Brown-Bigelow gold medal of the Allied Artists of America; and the Purchase Prize of the Salmagundi Club.
Hildebrandt is represented with several oils in the Butler Art Institute of Youngstown, Ohio; by his painting The Sicilian Bandit; at Pennsylvania State College; a portrait of Dr. John M. Thomas, president of Rutgers University, at New York’s Lotus Club; a portrait of Prof. Arthur J. Sweet in the Engineers Club; a self portrait in the National Academy of Design and a number of portraits in the Silvermine Group of Artists room at the New Canaan (Connecticut) Historical Society Museum, most notably a portrait of fellow artist and Knocker, Daniel Putnam Brinley. Hildebrandt was an early member of the Silvermine Group of Artists (The Knockers 1908-1922) in the Silvermine area of Connecticut.
He was fond of doing outdoor portraits, good examples of which are his paintings of Betty McKernan, Alice Williams, Miss Morgan of Worcester, H. B. Thayer, then chairman of the board of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, and its then president, Walter S. Gifford. Among his indoor portraits are paintings of Mrs. Godfrey Freeman, Mrs. J. B. Hagin, and Stephany EEste.