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

Biographical 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.