Robert Douglas Hunter (1928-2014), American
“Arrangement With A Brass Ewer”
oil on canvas, 20 in. x 28 in.
(framed dimensions: 27 ¾ in. x 35 ¾ in.)
signed lower right “ROBERT DOUGLAS HUNTER ‘02”
A fine example of still life painting in the Boston tradition by the acclaimed painter Robert Douglas Hunter. As always, Hunter’s first consideration was composition – the arrangement of the setup in a way that would create a sense of harmony and unity, typically employing curved linear shapes. Composition was difficult to teach, as Hunter would explain, but after decades of teaching and painting and judging paintings it was second nature for him. The objects themselves are a blend of Americana – a large brass ewer, an ironstone washbowl, a porcelain sugar bowl with elegant turnip-shaped finial, a blue glass ball, a delicate blue creamer and the red sumac that the artist often employed as what he called “filler” to unite the objects as well as add color. These items are arranged in a way that is pleasing to the eye and balanced. Hunter employs the odd or unexpected note as he would describe it – in this case the royal blue creamer, which, with its bold color note and placement by itself at the right of the canvas, balances the whole. The still life is set up in the natural northern light of Hunter’s studio and expertly observed with special attention to getting all the color notes as well as values correct – the shadows, the midtones and highlights. The colors are quite attractive – golds, yellows, ochers, rich blues, and vivid reds – all set against a warm and subtly varied gray background. The paint handling, as always, is masterly.
Mr. Hunter was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1928. He graduated from Boston English High School in 1945 and served two years in the Marine Corps. In 1949, he graduated with honors from the Vesper George School of Art. He studied in Provincetown with Henry Hensche during the summers of 1949 and 1950, then with R.H. Ives Gammell through 1955, that latter artist having passed on to Hunter the ideals he learned from his own mentor William McGregor Paxton. It was in Gammell's studio that Hunter met his future wife, Elizabeth Ives Valsam (Gammell's goddaughter). He taught at the Vesper George School from 1950-1983 and at the Worcester Art Museum from 1965-1975. Robert Douglas Hunter was known informally as the "Dean of the Boston School" of painting. He passed on his knowledge and helpful critiques to many artists over the years and judged many competitions. While he did paint portraits and landscapes, he took particular delight in painting still life - a genre in which he could control the composition, the colors, and lighting to his liking. I had the pleasure to meet and get to know Bob back in 1996 when I was working part-time in a local art gallery. He was a true gentleman and very considerate and generous with his advice and also a very likable person. His low tolerance for pretentiousness will always endear him to me, as well as his hilarious observation that painting is "just so damned easy!" (find the thing that is least right and fix it!).
Robert Douglas Hunter won more than thirty regional and national prizes. He was a member of the Copley Society, the Guild of Boston Artists, the Provincetown Art Association and the Allied Artists of America. His paintings are in the permanent collections of the Ackland Art Museum, the Cape Cod Museum of Art, the Chrysler Art Museum, the Maryhill Museum, the Michelson Museum of Art, and the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, not to mention numerous private, educational and corporate collections. He has a gallery wing named in his honor at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, which featured a retrospective exhibition of his paintings.
Member: Grand Central Galleries – NYC, American Artist Professional League, Allied Artists of America, Copley Society – Boston, Provincetown Art Association, Guild of Boston Artists (former President), North Shore Art Association, Hudson Valley Art Association.
Collections: Chrysler Art Museum – Norfolk, VA, Maryhill Museum – Goldendale, WA, Northeastern University, Tufts University, Boston University Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, King’s Chapel, Phillips Andover Academy, Phillips Exeter Academy, National Shawmut Bank, Boston 5 Cents Savings Bank, New England Life Insurance Company, Archdiocese of Boston, Harvard University, John Hancock Insurance Company.
Condition: The painting is in excellent condition. The painting is clean, the colors are bright, there is no inpainting or repairs of any kind. There is a very slight impression in the canvas in the upper right corner. This was from a stretcher key that had caused a split in the stretcher bar which was thus touching the canvas. When I noticed this, I removed the key and pushed the wood of the stretcher back away from the canvas. The contemporaneous gilt and reeded frame is in excellent condition.
Robert Douglas Hunter, "Arrangement With A Brass Ewer", oil on canvas, 2002