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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New Hamilton Hamilton Painting in Front Foyer

Hamilton Hamilton, Untitled (probably Turquoise Lake, near Boulder Colorado), 1875, oil on canvas

Hamilton Hamilton was born in Oxford, England in 1847. His family moved from England to the United States when he was still a young boy. They settled in the small community of Cowlesville, New York, then moved to Connecticut soon after, where Hamilton Hamilton remained for most of his life. He was clearly blessed with a natural talent for painting and was self-taught for the first part of his career. He finally received formal training around 1870 when he went to Paris. Upon his return to the United States he decided to take a sketching trip to the West, which was very fashionable at the time. Hamilton found great inspiration in the landscapes of Colorado. He sketched enough compositions over the course of a few months to complete 47 paintings, some of which were finished back in his New York studio.

Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art is thrilled to have just acquired one of those few paintings from his first sketching trip out West. The painting is signed and dated 1875 in the lower left. For Kirkland Museum, one of whose principal missions is to showcase early through modern Colorado art history, it is significant to have a painting that predates Colorado statehood by 1 year. The painting depicts the romantic landscape of central Colorado. Hamilton Hamilton chose a soft palette of oranges and violets to convey a sense of early sunrise or possibly a quiet sunset. The water is perfectly still and the calming trees and rocks create a very relaxing composition. Interestingly, the impressionistic application of paint in his landscapes created both shock and admiration among his contemporaries. His Colorado landscapes were praised and many of them were even included in the renowned 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, the first official World's Fair in the United States.

Kirkland Museum is also in possession of a particularly fine, large watercolor of a mother and daughter by Hamilton Hamilton (currently not on view).

Hamilton Hamilton returned to the West in 1879 to sketch more landscapes. Upon returning to New York he moved his studio to New York City and made friends with some of the giants of art history, including Thomas Moran, Winslow Homer and William Merritt Chase. Although Hamilton Hamilton enjoyed much success in his life, he became a casualty of the new wave of European Modernism that took hold in America during the 1920s. America's shift towards Cubism and other new approaches to painting meant that Hamilton Hamilton's style was no longer in vogue. He died not long after in 1928 in Norwalk, Connecticut. Although the new fad of Modernism took over the 20th century, Hamilton Hamilton remains engrained in the canon of art history as one of the important American landscape and portrait painters of the late 19th and early 20th century.