Hilaire Hiler is a charismatic artist and color theoretician with psychoanalytical training born in St. Paul, Minnesota. He sailed to France in 1919, studied at the University of Paris and ran a jazz club, where he painted interior and exterior murals. “The Jockey Club” was a hangout for artists and literary figures, including Henry Miller, Ernest Hemingway and Anais Nin.
He moved to San Francisco in the 1930s, and executed murals for the WPA at the location which is now the San Francisco Maritime Museum. Originally designed to be a public beach bathing house, due to a dispute about a casino that would take over the building, Hilaire organized a walk out before the project was completed, however it was nearly finished.
He became interested in “structuralism” in art, and a balance of form and color in the latter part of his career. He created a room at the SF Maritime Museum building called the “prismatarium,” which was recently restored by conservators to its original glory as a full spectrum rainbow color wheel covering the ceiling with grayscale gradients covering the walls.
He wrote several books on color, painting techniques and paint recipes including:
From Nudity to Raiment: An Introduction to the Study of Costume, 1929
Notes on the technique of painting, 1934
The Painter’s Pocket-book of Methods and Materials, 1937
Why Expressionism? 1946
“A painting must satisfy man’s geometrical instinct. ”