Robert Douglas Hunter (1928-2014), American
“Red Potatoes – Yellow Onions”, 1986
oil on canvas, 20 in. x 34 in.
(framed dimensions: 27in. x 40 ¾ in.)
signed lower left: “Robert Douglas Hunter ‘86”
I am pleased to offer this fine example of still life composition and painting, a genre that Mr. Hunter refined over the course of his life. The artist has selected a number of early American elements – a pewter charger, a cast-iron kettle, an early glass bottle – to share space with the potatoes and onions and the red sumac that Hunter used as so-called “filler” between objects in his still life paintings. These items are carefully placed and perfectly balanced in a way that will lead the eye through and around the painting. Objects of different sizes and interesting colors - reds, yellows, blues, grays - come together to form a pleasing composition, all on a flat surface covered in royal blue cloth, against a warm grayish beige background. In his own words, Hunter sought to impart a “quality of serenity” in his work. This painting is a great size to make a visual statement in any fine collection. Robert Douglas Hunter's still life paintings display all of the elements of the Boston School of Impressionist painting: good design and composition, close observation of true color and value in both light and shadow, lost and found edges and being able to see and paint the entire scene as a whole rather than a collection of independent elements.
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.
Bob’s direct method of painting, using only turpentine as a medium, lends itself well to the preservation of his work. This painting, 34 years old, is in excellent, clean, ready-to-hang condition with bright colors and no craquelure or paint loss and no stretcher bar creases. The modern gilt cove frame with linen liner is in equally excellent condition.
Robert Douglas Hunter, "Red Potatoes - Yellow Onions", oil on canvas, 1986