Artist's Statement

artists-statement

robert-hamilton-captain-of-the-guard
Self Portrait, 1416 A.D., 1999 oil, 30" x 32"

In 1935, I came down from Mynderse Academy, Seneca Falls, New York, to the Rhode Island School of Design, firmly resolved to become the next Norman Rockwell.

I met a great teacher, John R. Frazier, whose basic premise was art for art's sake. That sounded good to me, and still does.

Frazier also taught me to paint like John Singer Sargent in winter and as much like Monet as possible in the summers.

Outside of a stint fighting the Nazis in a P47 fighter bomber, one hundred missions as a captain, decorated with a distinguished flying cross, I have painted virtually every day 'til now, including Christmas, Easter, and the 4th of July.

Frazier was my teacher: Max Beckmann was my master. When I saw my first Beckmann triptych in the late forties, it was incomprehensible. One year later, the same painting floored me. I understood that it was el Greco, Diego Velasquez and Piero et al., only in a different form. I knew what I had to do with my tiny talent.

My other heroes were the jazz giants: Louis, Bix, Hawk, Pee Wee, Teagarden. From them I knew my paintings had to be improvised, spontaneous, made up out of whole cloth, one thing leading to another, accidental, a series of metamorphoses, surprised arrivals. A painting without surprise soon fades into the woodwork.

In 1981, I retired after 34 years of teaching painting and drawing at RISD. It was a wonderful job, mostly because of the superior quality of the students, in spite of the infinitesimal pay.

With my wife, Nancy Dillon, a prize, I went to our summer cottage in Port Clyde, Maine. In a great field overlooking the harbor, I built two small museums. I paint all winter in my waterfront studio, then put thirty or forty new pictures up in the galleries and invite people to take a look. Last free show on earth.