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Frederick Hammersley sketchbooks, prints, notes, and working materials, 1948-1980

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Finding aid for the Frederick Hammersley sketchbooks, prints, notes, and working materials, 1948-1980

Biographical/Historical Note

One of the founding members of hard-edge abstraction, Frederick Hammersley was born in !919 in Salt Lake City and moved with his family to Idaho and San Francisco. He studied art at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles from 1940-42, and from 1946-47, serving from 1942-45 as an army sargeant in World War II, stationed in Paris. From 1945-46 he studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. After completing his degree at Chouinard, Hammersley continued his studies at Jepson Art Institute from 1947-50.

Hammersley was an art instructor for more than twenty years. At the same time, he explored a range of media, including oil painting, watercolor, drawing, printmaking, photography, sculpture, mixed media and computer drawings. He first gained critical recognition in 1959 in a show at Los Angeles County Museum of Art titled Four Abstract Classicists. In the catalog for that show, the critic Jules Langsner first used the term "hard-edge" to describe the painters' use of flat, colored shapes with defined edges.

Within the media of painting, Hammersely had three principal series: hunch paintings, which were developed intuitively from an initial shape; organic paintings, composed of curving, hand-drawn shapes outlined in pencil and filled in with color; and geometric paintings, based on a grid, in which complexity is acheived through extensive development of minor variations on a theme. Each geometric and organic painting is assigned a title chosen from pages of phrases Hammersley recorded in a stream of consciousness process in response to a completed canvas. He felt that the titles were an integral part of the work and also increased the viewer's accessibility to the paintings.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, Hammersley's work enjoyed resurgent critical interest and a degree of commercial success. He died in 2009.

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