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Frederick Hammersley papers, circa 1860-2009, bulk 1940-2009

Frederick Hammersley papers, circa 1860-2009, bulk 1940-2009

Hammersley, Frederick, 1919-2009

Painter, Educator, Printmaker

Representative image for Frederick Hammersley papers, circa 1860-2009, bulk 1940-2009

This site provides access to the papers of Frederick Hammersley in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in 2013, and total 40,076 images.

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Getty Foundation and the Frederick Hammersley Foundation.

Collection Information

Size: 31.8 linear feet

Summary: The papers of Los Angeles Abstract Classicist painter and educator Frederick Hammersley measure 31.8 linear feet and date from circa 1860-2009, bulk 1940-2009. The papers contain biographical materials, 31 diaries, family and professional correspondence, personal business and financial records, estate records, writings, graphic design projects, teaching files, printed materials, scrapbooks, photographs, and works of art. An 2015 unprocessed addition includes a diary possibly written by Hammersley's mother, photograph albums and photographs, sketches and block prints, computer printouts, and hand painted grid color boxes used by Hammersley in teaching color theory.

Biographical materials include resumes and biographies, calendars, military records, family genealogies, school records, high school and college yearbooks, and awards. There are also sound and video recordings of talks, interviews, and television appearances. Scattered materials relating to Hammersley's parents, Anna Westberg Hammersley and Harold Hammersley, are also found in the series.

Correspondence consists of letters from family and close friends as well as business correspondence with collectors and professional art associations. Family correspondents include Hammersley's immediate family and aunts and cousins. Additional noteworthy correspondents include fellow artists Karl Benjamin, William Brice, Robert Chuey, Rico Lebrun, and John McLaughlin, among others.

There are 23 diaries written by Frederick Hammersley dating from 1935-2008, with a gap spanning 1954-1972. Also found are six diaries written by Harold Hammersley dating from 1940-1959 and two by Anna Hammersley from 1958-1965.

Hammersley's writings include college class notes, essays, poetry, lecture notes, grant applications, and proposals. There are also sound recordings of lectures and talks as well as drafts and a final copy of an article published in the journal Leonardo in 1970.

Teaching files consist of class lecture notes, student evaluations, and grade books for classes likely taught at Pomona University and the Chouinard Art Institute.

Graphic design projects contain materials from Hammersley's company Handsome Cards for which he designed greeting and holiday cards. Also included are various freelance designs and draft designs for exhibition catalogs. General financial and business records focus on Hammersley business relationships and transactions with galleries and museums and his efforts to promote his art. Galleries and museums represented in the files include Modernism Gallery (San Francisco), L.A. Louver Gallery (Venice, California), and Hoshour Gallery (Albuquerque). This series also contains tax returns and expense ledgers. Also found are scattered materials from the household of Anna and Harold Hammersley.

Estate records are found for Frederick Hammersley, Susie Hammersley Stone, Anna and Harold Hammersley, Frederick Hammersley Sr., Mrs. E. Hammersley, Maude Eliza Hammersley, Dorothy Hutchinson Hammersley, and Basil Edward Pratt. These files include wills and yearly financial reports.

Printed material consists of newspaper and magazine clippings, exhibition catalogs and announcements, and printed copies of Hammersley's graphic designs. The series is extensive and contains clippings and exhibition material that represents Hammersley's entire career as an artist. Also found are packets of printed materials created by Hammersley to represent the careers of his friends and colleagues.

Scrapbooks consist of eleven "scrapfiles," postcard albums, and clippings scrapbooks created by Frederick Hammersley and Anna Hammersley. Scrapfiles refers to the original title created by the Hammersleys. Frederick's scrapbooks contain clippings of art, criticisms of his work, and news mentions of his career. Anna's scrapbooks contain one postcard album and 4 scrapbooks and scrapfiles of news clippings relating to subjects of her personal interest.

Photographs include snapshots of Hammersley; images of Hammersley with family and friends; travel photographs, many of them taken in Europe during World War II; photographs of exhibitions; and photographs of Hammersley's artwork. Most of the photographs were labeled and dated by Hammersley. There are six photo albums created by Frederick Hammersley and four albums compiled by his parents Harold and Anna Hammersley.

Artwork includes the original designs from Hammersley's graphic design projects, sketchbooks, drawings and designs from high school and college classes, exhibition catalog drawings, and cards and printouts from his computer drawing series. There are also scattered works by Susie Hammersley Stone and Lu Nowells.

An unprocessed addition of 5.9 linear feet donated in 2015 includes an annotated family guest book; a diary possibly written by Hammersley's mother; a set of six hand-painted grid color boxes used by Hammersley in teaching color theory; six photograph albums of Hammersey's family and small boxes containing photographs and slides taken by Hammersley; and artwork including loose sketches by Hammersley of live models, block prints of wallpaper designs by Hammersley, programming printouts from Hammersley's dot matrix computer drawings, sketches for murals by Hammersley, and tone study paintings on board, used for teaching.

Biographical/Historical Note

Frederick Hammersley (1919-2009) was a painter, graphic designer, and educator who spent most of his career in Los Angeles and New Mexico.


Frederick Hammersley donated his papers to the Archives of American Art in nine accessions from 1974 to 2008. The Frederick Hammersley Foundation donated additional papers in 2012 and in 2015 via Executive Director Kathleen Shields.


Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Getty Foundation and the Frederick Hammersley Foundation.

A Finding Aid to the Frederick Hammersley Papers, circa 1860-2009, bulk 1940s-2009 in the Archives of American Art
Biographical/Historical note
Painter, graphic designer, and educator Frederick Hammersley (1919-2009) spent most of his career in Los Angeles and New Mexico. He is closely associated with the hard-edge abstraction painting style of the Abstract Classicists of Southern California.
Hammersley was born on January 5, 1919 to Anna Westberg and Harold Hammersley in Salt Lake City, where his father worked for the U.S. Department of the Interior. The family lived in Utah and Idaho before finally settling in San Francisco. Hammersley attended the University of Idaho and later enrolled in the Academy of Advertising Art in San Francisco. In 1940, Hammersley began taking classes at the Chouinard Art Institution in Los Angeles.
Hammersley's studies were interrupted by World War II military service from 1942 to 1946. He was stationed first in Paris as a draftsman in the Signal Corp and was eventually promoted to Army sargeant in the Office of Military Government in Berlin. While in Paris, he visited Picasso's studio several times and also took classes at the Ècole des Beaux Arts at the end of the war. When he returned home in 1946, the GI Bill subsidized his final year of study at Chouinard, now the California Institute of Arts, and three years at the Jepson Art Institute in Los Angeles.
Hammersley made his living as an art professor in California for twenty years, where he taught at the Jepson Art Institute and Pomona College in Claremont. He moved to Albuquerque after accepting a teaching position at the University of New Mexico in 1968. In 1971, Hammersley resigned his teaching position and devoted himself to painting.
Hammersley's reputaton as a painter began in 1948 when one of his small paintings was accepted in an annual exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In 1958, several of his works were included in the seminal exhibition
Four Abstract Classicists
, organized by Jules Langsner and Peter Selz and shown at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Hammersley, and fellow painters Lorser Feitelson, Karl Benjamin, and John McLaughlin, were dubbed the "hard-edged painters," whose style consisted of flat, colored geometric shapes that were a sharp contrast to the more popular Abstract Expressionism. The label stuck and in the mid 1970s, Hammersley submitted several works of art for a show called
L.A. Hard Edge
, a show that featured art from the 1950s and 1970s.
During the late 1970s and 1980s, Hammersley exhibited in several one-man shows, including at L.A. Louver in Venice, California, the Hoshour Gallery in Albuquerque, and the Corcoran in Washington, D.C. In 2000, the Laguna Art Museum presented a traveling exhibition organized by the Museum of Fine Arts in Sante Fe, and the Pomona College Museum of Art organized a retrospective in 2007. His work is in museum collections across the country, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Hammersley died in 2009 at the age of 90. He was survived by his sister, Susie Hammersley Stone.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 13 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1919-2008 (2.3 linear feet; Box 1-3, 31, 33)
Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1900-2009 (3.0 linear feet; Box 3-6)
Series 3: Diaries, 1935-2008 (2.0 linear feet; Box 6-8)
Series 4: Writings, Lectures, and Notes, circa 1940-2009 (0.5 linear feet; Box 8-9)
Series 5: Teaching Files, circa 1950-1993 (0.2 linear feet; Box 9)
Series 6: Graphic Design Projects, circa 1945-1980 (0.4 linear feet; Box 9-10, 31)
Series 7: Personal Business and Financial Records, 1897-2008 (3.1 linear feet; Box 10-13, 24, 33, 35)
Series 8: Estate Records, 1955-2001 (0.4 linear feet; Box 13, 24)
Series 9: Printed Material, 1945, 2011 (3.6 linear feet; Box 13-17, 31)
Series 10: Scrapbooks, circa 1890-1960s (3.3 linear feet; Box 17-18, 25-29)
Series 11: Photographs, circa 1860s-2007 (7.0 linear feet; Box 18-23, 29-31)
Series 12: Artwork and Artifacts, 1934-2009 (1.2 linear feet; Box 22, 31-32, 35)
Series 13: Unprocessed Addition, undated (5.9 linear feet; Box 37-47)
Frederick Hammersley donated his papers to the Archives of American Art in nine accessions from 1974 to 2008. The Frederick Hammersley Foundation donated additional papers in 2012 and in 2015 via Executive Director Kathleen Shields.
Processing Information note
Diana Shenk processed a portion of the papers in 2010 with funding provided by The Getty Foundation. In 2012-2013, a large addition to the papers was integrated, processed, and described by Jayna Josefson and the collection was scanned in its entirety with funding provided by the Frederick Hammersley Foundation. A later 5.9 linear feet addition received in 2015 remains unprocessed.

Additional Forms Available

The bulk of the collection was digitized in 2013-2014 and is available on the Archives of American Art's website. Materials which have not been scanned include blank pages, blank versos of photographs, and duplicates. In some cases, exhibition catalogs and other publications have had their covers, title pages, and relevant pages scanned.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate copy requires advance notice.

How to Cite This Collection

Frederick Hammersley papers, circa 1860-2009, bulk 1940-2009. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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