Artist of the Week 60
Robert Douglas Hunter
If there were a brick and mortar educational art institution called “The Boston School,” then Robert Douglas Hunter would surely be its Dean. As it is, the label Boston School is applied rather loosely to artists who have received much of their training from master painters whose techniques are derived from R.H. Ives Gammell’s adaptation of French atelier instruction.
In this sense as well, Hunter has long been recognized as an informal “Dean” of the movement, adding his own particular signature to the Boston School emphasis on carefully planned compositions, accurate rendering, and a delight in the ability of light and shadow to create atmosphere in painting.
He has personally taught well over forty students who are now accomplished full-time professional artists, and in turn, these students have been responsible for training many others.
Born in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1928, Hunter served in the Marines before graduating from the Vesper George School of Art in 1949. He studied with Henry Hensche, and then intensively with R.H. Ives Gammell from 1950 to 1955. Simultaneously in 1950, he began a teaching career at the Vesper George School of Art which lasted until the school closed in 1983. He also taught at the Worcester Art Museum from 1965 to 1975.
Hunter was awarded over thirty regional and national prizes, including the first John Singleton Copley Award (1966), and fourteen Gold Medals at the annual exhibition of New England artists held by the Jordan Marsh Company, Boston. In recognition of his painting and teaching, he received a Citation from the governor of Massachusetts (1979). Hunter was the first winner of the Copley Medallion (1988), and won the 1989 Guild of Boston Artists Award.
He was featured in a major article in American Artist Magazine (September 1990), and is listed in Who’s Who in American Art, Prize Winning Art, and Who’s Who in the East. In early 2001, the Cape Cod Museum of Art opened a new naturally-lit gallery named in Hunter’s honor, and mounted a retrospective exhibition of his paintings in the new space.
Hunter painted with the sight-size method, a technique that goes far back into the history of art but is particularly unknown today among younger painters.
In a 2007 interview with American Artist Magazine, Hunter elaborated on the sight-size method as “a method of viewing the model and your painting simultaneously from a selected position so that both images appear the same size. The artist afforded a much clearer comparison of the subject to the painting, which eliminates transposing the visual image to a different size on the canvas as it is painted.
This allows the painting to be life size or under life size, because the size is determined by the relative position of the model, the easel, and the place you stand when viewing the subject, which I refer to as the ‘viewing point.’ If you want your painting to be life size, the canvas is placed next to the subject; if it is to be under life size, the easel is moved nearer to the viewing point. That distance determines how much under life size the painting is to be.”
“We strive in our early years to learn our craft; therefore we search for a master teacher who has demonstrated this in [their] own work. Afterwards, there comes a long period of growth during which we experiment, embracing some ideas for fuller development and discarding others not useful to our creative needs.
When our work begins to reveal individuality, it is still essential to pursue an honest observation of nature interpreted within the framework of varied compositions of our invention. If we fail at this point, we run the risk of displaying mannerisms that will inhibit our artistic growth.
This is no small matter. It is a formidable challenge that we try to meet with all our resources. Yet the measure of our artistic success rests in the evaluation of generations yet to come.”
-Robert Douglas Hunter, 2005
Contact Lily Pad Gallery West for information on pricing and to view additional works by Robert Douglas Hunter.