Robert Hamilton (1917‑2004) graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1939. During World War II, he was a captain and P47 bomber pilot, flying one hundred missions and earning a Distinguished Flying Cross. Following the war, he returned to RISD to teach painting and drawing for thirty-four years. Artists Yvonne Jacquette, George Lloyd, David Estey, and Eric Hopkins are among his many students. Upon retiring in 1981, he moved full-time to Port Clyde, Maine, where he devoted the rest of his life to painting. A prolific artist, Hamilton produced over six hundred works, treating the image as a stage for depicting fantastical dreams, and invented narratives that brim with humor, pathos, and an unquenchable zest for life. His love of jazz—his son is the noted jazz saxophonist Scott Hamilton—is reflected in the syncopation of his colors and his invented imagery. “I knew my paintings had to be improvised, spontaneous, made up out of whole cloth, one thing leading to another, accidental, a series of metamorphoses, surprised arrivals, ” he wrote. His friend and neighbor, Andrew Wyeth, called Hamilton “a real painter.”
In 1974, Hamilton was Artist in Residence at the American Academy in Rome. During the later decades of his career, he chose to exhibit his work primarily at his property in Port Clyde. In 1999, he had solo exhibitions at the Farnsworth Art Museum and the RISD Museum, and in 2011, at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art. His work is in the permanent collections of the Farnsworth Art Museum, the Portland Museum of Art, and the RISD Museum.