Arthur Hammer

Self-taught painter Arthur Hammer is perhaps best known for his work that evoked the WPA style of painting associated with American artists emerging in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Landscapes, industrialized cityscape views, construction machinery and portraiture were among the most commonly painted subjects during his career which spanned more than 40 years.

Photo of Arthur Hammer






Museum Collections


Arthur Hammer (1932-2012) was a self taught artist, who was strongly influenced by the works of portrait artist Alice Neel, Marsden Hartley, and German Expressionist, Max Beckmann.

He was a 40 year resident of Long Island City, Queens, when it was known as an artists' colony. There, he rented a 3 story brownstone, which was said to be the home of the first Queensborough President. Because he had 3 floors and 17 ft. high ceilings he was able to paint and hang his painting throughout the house. His home became a modern day Salon where he would have numerous parties inviting friends and patrons, which is how he often sold his work. He had a very eclectic and loyal following of patrons, whom he would regale with stories of his life, past and present. Although self taught, he made a living as an artist, and commanded healthy prices for his works. In the last 7 years of his life he exclusively supported himself through the sales of his paintings.

Arthur Hammer began his life as an actor, and moved to NYC from Cleveland, Ohio at the age of 18 to take acting classes. He had some success in small parts on soap operas, sitcoms (CPO Sharkey), made-for-TV movies such as Rage of Angles, starring Jaclyn Smith, as well as commercials.
His biggest success as an actor came in 1979, at the Winter Garden Theater, where he played a supporting role, as the reporter, in the production of Zoot Suit.

Without any formal training, he picked up his first brush in 1961, at the age of 27. Even while he was acting, he continued to paint. His first one man show came in 1963 at The Gallery of Four Walls. In the late 1960’s, while living in Greenwich Village, in NYC. He also began to build chess sets from industrial parts. His set appears in a book published by the Museum of Modern Art by F. Lanier, entitled Chess Sets. One set remains in existence, with his daughter Deirdre Hammer.

In the mid 80’s Arthur Hammer gave up his acting career to devote himself exclusively to his art, and the business of art. He continued to paint on a daily basis. In the mid 90s, after working for several art dealers and learning "the art of selling art", he opened his own gallery on West 26th Street, where he concentrated on selling the works of the WPA, as well as well as acquiring the estate of, and promoting, the works of Leon Bibel.

After spending many years successfully selling the work of other artists, in 2005, Arthur Hammer closed his gallery on West 26th Street, and devoted himself to painting everyday and selling his own works, which sustained him through 2012, when he passed away after fighting prostate cancer for almost 20 years.
Since his passing in 2012, several paintings have been acquired by various museums. Although he was self taught, museums have often commented that his works tend to surpass both outsider art, and/or Art Brute, which are often associated with artists' who live life on the fringe of society, which he did not.

His favorite thing to paint were portraits. He was known amongst his peers as "the poor man's Alice Neel". At the time of his passing, over 80 portraits of friends and patrons were part of his estate. Portraits as a general rule are the hardest paintings for an artist to sell, unless they are commissioned, his were not.

The museums who have acquired his works include: The Georgia Museum of Art, 2017, acquired his painting, "Domino Dark", part of a series of paintings based on the Brooklyn Domino sugar factory. A similar, lighter version, of the painting was also acquired by The Queens Museum in 2013.

In 2016, four of his paintings were acquired by The Leslie Lohman Museum in New York City. These paintings included the portraits "Jack and Harvey", "Johnny in Gray", "Andrew", and "Costa". In March 2017, the Leslie Lohman Museum opened a new building and had a 50 year retrospective of the museum and it's history. In that show, the painting of "Jack & Harvey" was prominently featured.

In 2014, four of the artists paintings were acquired by the American Museum of Visionary Art. It is the largest museum dedicated to self-taught artists, and is located near the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, MD. In 2015, one of the paintings, El Martillo, which was recently appraised at $12,000, became the featured painting of the museums Big Hope show. Also acquired by AMVA were "Louisa Conchetta", "Johnny in an Antique Chair", and a "Self-Portrait of the Artist in Blue".

Shortly after his passing, in 2013, the Queens Museum of Art, in Flushing, Queens acquired two of his Queens inspired works entitled "Along the #7 Line", and "Domino Sugar Factory".

One painting during the artists lifetime, was acquired by The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA, entitled Bash Bish Falls.

Also, to date, three of his pieces have been sold at auction, and his auction prices can be seen on Ask Art.
During his lifetime, Arthur Hammer sold hundreds of paintings to friends, and loyal patrons. Many of his patrons acquired several of his paintings throughout the years, and now boast of their own “Arthur Hammer collections”. His clients have included, doctors’, and lawyers’, and musicians, such as Sting (Perplexity of a Monkey), as well as those in the movie industry, such as the executive producer of the X files, Bob Goodwin, and his wife Shelia, who were good friends of the artist.

Arthur Hammer was passionate about life and passionate about art. His sprit, and his zest for life are strongly reflected in his work. He was recently invited to have his ashes placed at the historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY, and they are in possession of two of his paintings.