Theme/Style – Modernism,
Geometric Abstraction, Hard-Edge Abstraction, Op Art, still lifes, figurative
Media – Oils, drawings,
Artistic Focus – Though
he is known as one of the original Hard-Edge Abstract painters of the
1950s, Fred Hammersley was well into his painting career before he adopted
this form. During the 1940s his still life and figurative work distinguished
him as a gifted draftsman, and the linear strength of his compositions
ultimately transferred to his stately, geometric works, which display
a similar fine-tuned control.
Career Highlights –
• Frederick Hammersley was born in Salt Lake City,
Utah, in 1919. He first studied at the University of Idaho for two years.
• Moving to Los Angeles in 1940, Hammersley enrolled at Chouinard Art
Institute where his teachers included Rico Lebrun.
• His studies were interrupted by the onset of World War II. He
served in the Army’s Infantry and Signal Corps in England, France and
Germany. Before returning to the U.S., Hammersley studied for a year
at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
• Hammersley returned to Chouinard, but in 1947 he transferred to the
Jepson Art Institute where he again trained with Lebrun and became an
instructor himself, holding a position there until 1951.
• In 1952, Hammersley began his abstract “hunch” painting style,
in which he followed his inspiration as he applied shapes to his canvases;
and through the 1950s and early 1960s he continued to teach, at both
Pomona College and the Pasadena Art Museum.
• 1959 marked a turn toward even finer geometric work and Hammersley’s
inclusion – with Lorser Feitelson, Karl Benjamin, and John McLaughlin – in the fabled Four Abstract Classicists show organized by Jules Langsner
at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Langsner linked the four artists
by their fusion of space and form, and it was in this show’s catalog
that he originated the term “Hard Edge.” The exhibition traveled
to London, and was thought to have provided Los Angeles with its first
claim to international success as a modern art center.
• Hammersley went on to be selected for prestigious invitational shows,
in New York at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Geometric
Abstraction in America and Fifty California
Artists (both 1962) and the Museum of
Modern Art’s The Responsive Eye (1965); as well as at the Los Angeles
County Museum of Art’s California – Five Footnotes
to Modern History (1977).
• Throughout the 1960s Hammersley also had numerous one-man shows at
the Pasadena Art Museum, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor
in San Francisco, the La Jolla Art Museum, and the Santa Barbara Museum
of Art, while also teaching at Chouinard Art Institute from 1964 to 1968.
• In 1968 Hammersley moved to Albuquerque to join the faculty of the
University of New Mexico.
Additional biographical material and full bibliographic
references are available upon request.
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