Museum Highlight

Donald Hamilton Fraser

Some of our members will still remember Donald Hamilton Fraser, 20 years since his retirement as President of the RGA. [Highlighted: December 2021]

Landscape, October, 1970
Donald Hamilton Fraser (1929–2009)

Oil on paper
57cm x 51cm
Date: 1970

RGA President 1994–2001
Reading Museum Accession Number
REDMG : 1970.176.1

This simply named Landscape, October 1970 is an example of Donald Hamilton Fraser’s stylized landscapes created with bold blocks of rich colour using oil paint on paper. Influenced by his Scottish heritage and his time spent in France, the Royal Academy website simply says that he liked to describe his work as ‘semi-abstract pictures based on the landscape’ he would often use a pallet knife say with a collage-like effect. By contrast, he also produced chalk and wash drawings of dancers reflecting his lifelong love of ballet.

Born in London in 1929 of Scottish parents, Donald Hamilton Fraser studied at Saint Martin’s School of Art from 1949-1952, followed by two years living and working in Paris having been awarded a French Government Scholarship in 1953.

He became a fellow of the Royal College of Art in 1970 having worked as a visiting tutor there since 1957, and continued until 1983 at which point he became an honorary fellow. He also had a long association with the Royal Academy starting in 1976 when he was elected as an ARA and later made an RA in 1985. His work has been exhibited extensively in the UK and also at many solo and group exhibitions around the world including the USA, France, Switzerland, and Japan.

Donald Hamilton Fraser RA, lived and worked in Henley-on-Thames for 40 years, became President of the Reading Guild of Artists in 1994. However, his involvement with the RGA goes back much further when twice he acted as Assessor for the annual Marie Dyson Award, first in 1978 and again in 1987.

In 1997 he wrote in the 67th Annual Exhibition catalogue: “Grand art institutions like the Tate and RA are all very well, but it is important for people to realise that diverse and accessible art is being made in their own community”.

Donald Hamilton Fraser retired as RGA President in 2001 and was made an honorary life member in 2003. He died in 2009 when The Guardian said of him “Modest in his own regard, he was ever generous and encouraging to his fellow artists, both as friend and teacher, and the contribution he made to the life of the arts went far beyond his own work, significant though that was.”

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