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Clint Hamilton: An Artful Legacy

Updated: Sep 3, 2020

by Larla Morales

Clint Hamilton’s personal and professional legacy are larger than life. His magnetic personality and storied creative dynamism was a driving force, not only in his hometown of Abilene Texas, but in the bright lights of New York City’s art scene during the 1950’s and 60’s. Born James Clinton Hamilton in Abilene, Texas in 1928, Clint moved to New York in 1951 after practicing commercially and studying art at Southern Methodist University in Dallas to pursue his aspirations as an artist and creative. Upon his arrival, Clint's artistic aptitude caught the eye of Tiffany & Co.’s  famed window designer Gene Moore. It is through this fateful connection that Clint found a stage for his talents in the windows of Bonwit Teller and Tiffany & Co. where he designed and created window displays which featured his own work and the works of then, little known artists such as Andy Warhol and Nathan Gluck (pictured below). 

Pictured: Clint Hamilton, Nathan Gluck, Andy Warhol by Edward Wallowitch c. 1955, New York

Clint’s commercial work featured a striking blend of exceptional technical abilities married with his distinctive creative choice to include pieces of fine art which were being created by many emerging artists who struggled to access gallery and exhibition space in the electrically charged art scene of New York in the 1950’s and 60’s. In this way, Clint established his lifelong philosophy of providing inclusivity and support to other artists in all stages of development. In his time spent in New York City, Clint’s professional and social circles included many notable artists and creative minds of the 20th Century, including the likes of Andy Warhol, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauchenberg and Richard Avedon. There is no doubt that his innate desire to include and edify fellow artists within his own success bolstered the collective spirit of one of the most influential generations of American and International artists in history to date. 

Pictured: (1) Clint Hamilton’s Window Designs at Bonwit Teller with Five Andy Warhol Paintings in 1961, (2) Clint infront of his Bonwit Teller Window Design, 5th Ave. August 4th 1966, (3) August 4th Teller, 1966, (4) Bonwit Teller Window, c. 1950s-60s, New York

In 1967 Clint returned to Abilene Texas after several seasons of poor health, eventually relocating permanently in the early 1970’s. This event heralded a new chapter in his life and within the life of the art scene in his hometown. His metropolitan sophistication coupled with his famously warm, humorous and gregarious nature endeared him to many within our community. He developed hugely impactful relationships with local artists in various professional stages, spanning multiple generations and mentored many notable artists still practising today. For the remainder of his life he continued to maintain an impressively prolific artistic practise. He designed window displays for Neiman Marcus in Dallas and Abilene’s Grissom’s Department Store, which later became The Center for Contemporary Arts (The CCA), where he served as curator for many years. His vital creative ethos is still felt today in the walls of The Center for Contemporary Arts and throughout many local organizations today. His contributions to The Center for Contemporary Arts established a legacy of artfulness, accessibility, inclusivity and support for established and developing artists that shapes and informs our continued work at The CCA.

Pictured: (1) Clint Hamilton at The Center for Contemporary Arts, Date and Photographer Unknown, CCA Archives. (2) Clint Hamilton in his studio, among all his objects in October 1993. (3) Clint Hamilton stands outside the window of Grissom's Department Store, where his display for the Abilene Chamber of Commerce Cultural Arts Council centennial project is seen in August 1981. He had been hired in 1972 as the store's display manager. Reporter-News file photo. (4) Clint Hamilton puts the finishing touches on a headdress in 1974, "A window display should be a work of art," he said, Reporter-News file photo. (5) Clint Hamilton is pictured with his "Works on Paper" exhibition at The Center for Contemporary Arts in May 1990, Reporter-News file photo. 

2019 marked the 30th Anniversary of the foundation of The Center for Contemporary Arts. This auspicious milestone was celebrated by revisiting the life and times of Clint Hamilton; his work was displayed alongside collages and portraits created by a number of local artists to honor his legacy and legend as an artist, friend, mentor and champion of the arts and artists. Hamilton’s own work as well as the work celebrating him can be seen in The Center’s Clint Hamilton Library and at The Grace Museum who houses an extensive archive of his work as well as his personal collection of artwork which includes pieces from Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró.

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) Pictured: (1) Tea With Clint by Marie Tumlinson, (2) A portrait of Clint Hamilton by Tootsie Nichols, (3) Clint Hamilton, as interpreted by Ginger Womack, (4) Collage Honoring Clint Hamilton by Freddy Gonzales, (5) Tribute to Clint Hamilton by Jack Harkins, (6) Graphite Sketch of Clint Hamilton by Esmé Glen, (7) C. Hamilton by Stephani Prosser  Learn more about Clint Hamilton’s Life and Legacy:  The CCA Presents: Remembering Clint Hamilton


The Grace Museum Presents: Illustrated Happy Hour: Clint Hamilton + Andy Warhol https://www.thegracemuseum.org/online-learning-blog/2020/6/3/illustrated-happy-hour-clint-hamilton-andy-warhol Abilene Reporter News: Before 'Hamilton,' Abilene had Hamilton. Artist Clint Hamilton. By Greg Jaklewicz https://www.reporternews.com/story/entertainment/arts/2019/07/03/before-hamilton-abilene-had-artist-clint-hamilton/1620282001/ Photographer Twig Capra’s touching recollections of Clint “My First Art Teacher”  http://twigcaprablog.blogspot.com/2010/11/my-first-art-teacher.html The Abilene Scene: How Andy Warhol’s Friend Made a Large Impact on Abilene, by Darla Harmond https://abilenescene.com/how-andy-warhols-friend-made-a-large-impact-on-abilene/

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