Richard Hambleton

The mysterious ‘Shadowman’, Richard Hambleton is often called the Godfather of street art and was friends with all the legendary figures of the New York art scene of the 1980s including Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and Jean Michel-Basquiat. Yet Hambleton’s name didn’t break into the mainstream until after his death from cancer in 2017 – the artist was never interested in the celebrity status of other peers in his circle, yet his pervasive legacy and influence on street artist such as Banksy and many others, is clear today.

Born in 1952 in Vancouver Canada, he attended the Vancouver School of Art until 1975. His first signature works gained him instant recognition with the art world and the police alike, as they mimicked the life-sized human outlines used in investigating murder cases, painted in white. He created the persona of R. Dick Trace-It, a detective investigating these artificial murder crime cases, as well as a fake perpetrator by the name of Mr Reee. He painted around 620 of these white outlines throughout his travels in Canada and the United States in the 1970s, as well as 4000 ‘wanted’ posters for the fictitious murderer, Mr Reee.

He eventually settled in New York in 1980, becoming enveloped in its dynamic Street Art scene. Hambleton’s eerie black figures, which later gave him the name ‘Shadowman’, started popping up on the streets of the city as a menacing reminder of the rising crime rates in New York. As described by the artist for People magazine around that time, the dark silhouettes “…could represent watchmen or danger or the shadows of a human body after a nuclear holocaust or even my own shadow.”

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