The story behind the painting “Green” by Richard Hambleton

Richard Hambleton (1952-2017) was an American-Canadian graffiti artist best known for his recurring motif of a black silhouetted figure known as the Shadowman. Along with his contemporaries Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Hambleton painted directly on the streets of New York and achieved success during the art boom of the 1980s. “I painted the town black,” he once said. “They could represent watchmen or danger or the shadows of a human body after a nuclear holocaust or even my own shadow.” Born on June 23, 1952 in Vancouver, Canada, he studied at the Vancouver School of Art before beginning his Image Mass Murder series in 1976. These works mimicked the look of chalk outlines used by police during crime scene investigations. Settling in New York in 1979, Hambleton transitioned from street art to producing paintings in his studio. He went on to participate in both the 1984 and 1988 Venice Biennale. The artist died on October 29, 2017 in New York, NY. Today, Hambleton’s works are held in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and The Museum of Modern Art in New York, among others.

Green, 1984. Oil on canvas by Richard Hambleton

"I started collecting paintings by Richard Hambilton in the late 1980s. My friend Jean-Michel Basquiat introduced us, and I later helped Richard recover several works he had stored at Manhattan Mini Storage on W. 18th St. They were about to auction the contents of his storage facility when I gave him a few thousand dollars to pay off his debt. In exchange, he gave me a few posters - including Fountain of Youth (1982). When I asked Richard about buying more paintings, he mentioned "this green painting." He told me he had recently sold a similar painting to Saatchi & Saatchi for the new building in downtown Manhattan and offered to bring it over to me. At the time, he was living in an old fire house on Clinton Street. I visited him a few times there to view his work. The next evening, he rode his small bicycle over to my loft in SoHo with this large painting - stretched! It was a bizarre and impressive sight. I was planning on hosting a cocktail party with some friends that night and invited him to stay, but he wasn't quite a party person at that point in his life. Richard set Green up in my main room. After he hung it, he arrange some Gothic looking candles with holders around the painting to give it a beautiful, warm glow. He lit the candles and left. I went to take a shower and returned half an hour later to a strange odor coming from the main room. The candles had burned the edge of the painting, forming a long black streak on the left of the composition. I immediately called Richard and asked him to come over. He was about to take out his paint kit and then paused and said, "No, I like it better the way. It’s a big improvement.” He touched up one or two little bits and then left."

 

-as told by Ed Steinberg, gallery owner
255 McKibbin St, Brooklyn, NY 11221

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