Out of the Vault – Painting of AU Chancellor John William Hamilton


Edward Wilbur Dean Hamilton’s portrait of John William Hamilton cira 1916


This life size portrait by his brother, Edward Wilbur Dean Hamilton, shows Chancellor John William Hamilton in his academic regalia seated in a red velvet chair. Art critic William Howe Downs praised the painting in an article in the Boston Evening Transcript as follows: “this work…will take rank among Mr. Hamilton’s most important and perfect portraits of men.”

Retired Methodist Bishop John W. Hamilton (1845-1934) succeeded his brother, Franklin E. Hamilton (1866-1918), as Chancellor of American University in 1916. He served until 1922. Hamilton earned an A.B. from Mount Union College and a S.T.B. from the Boston University School of Theology. He was elected Corresponding Secretary of the Freedmen’s Aid and Southern Education Society in 1892. Hamilton was an advocate of temperance and the rights of African Americans and women.

Edward Wilbur Dean Hamilton (1864-1943), painted landscapes, portraits, and scenes of everyday life. He studied painting at the Massachusetts Normal Art School (1883), the Rhode Island College of Design, and Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris (1889). Wilbur Hamilton exhibited paintings at the Paris Salon (1890-1892). After his return to America in 1892, he exhibited his landscapes and portraits in Atlanta, Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Critics admired Wilbur Hamilton’s work for its refinement and attention to detail. The World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 featured two of his landscapes. Wilbur Hamilton won a gold medal at the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. He taught at Massachusetts Normal Art School, Boston University, and the Rhode Island School of Design before starting the Jones River Art School. The Rhode Island School of Design and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston have some of Wilbur Hamilton’s paintings.