Frederick Hammersley 1919–2009

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, Frederick Hammersley took art lessons as a child and went on to study a wide range of artistic pursuits from painting to lettering at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles from 1940–42 and 1946–47 and Jepson Art Institute from 1947–50. Following his service in WWII as an army sergeant he studied at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts. While in Paris, he met and visited the studios of Picasso, Brancusi, and Cezanne and it was during this time that he began experimenting with abstract imagery in his own art. Thus began his journey of reducing traditional imagery to simple, flat, colorful shapes.

Hammersley’s experimentation developed into the first of three series that would define his career: his “hunch” paintings. The evolution of a hunch painting began as a shape. Then he intuitively chose a color, after which he would continue adding shapes and colors by “feeling” or “hunch” and leading to finished works that may suggest a subject but remain abstract as a whole. His second series began in the late 1950s and early 1960s when he began creating geometric, hard-edge paintings. Unlike his hunch paintings, Hammersley’s geometric works were thoughtfully planned out in sketchbooks. He planned out the composition and then painted them on the canvas with a palette knife; unlike many of his contemporaries, he never used tape to create hard edges. Hammersley applied equal thought and consideration to the titles of his paintings and kept copious stream-of-consciousness notes full of puns, double entendres, and witty plays on words that would provide the viewer with some verbal insight into his abstract creations.

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