Watch a clip from the 2017 film Shadowman, a documentary directed by Oren Jacoby, about the life and career of Richard Hambleton. In the film, the artist paints one of his ominous silhouettes in a matter of seconds.
I painted the town black.
Canadian artist Richard Hambleton was part of the same downtown scene as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring—outselling both artists at the height of his career— yet his star was almost forgotten. As a young artist in Canada, he gained notoriety for his life-size chalk outlines that mimicked murder scenes and after moving to New York, his ominous painted figures gave him the nickname Shadowman. Known as the godfather of street-art, Hambleton was truly doing it first, and he paved the way for artist like Basquiat, Haring and Bansky to enjoy massive commercial success. Hambleton, on the other hand, remained out of the public eye for most of his career and what monetary wealth he achieved was short-lived. Drug addiction, death, and tumult propelled him into a life of poverty, yet Hambleton continued to paint, trading works for food, shelter, and art supplies. In 2009, he was rediscovered. A sudden burst of notoriety and a slew of sales brought Hambleton to the forefront of the art world once again, but the moment did not last. Increasing frail from years of drug use and untreated cancer, Hambleton died in 2017. Three years prior, in a moment of morbid self-reflection, he said “At least Basquiat, you know, died. I was alive when I died, you know. That’s the problem.”
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