Richard Duke Hagerty



Richard Hagerty’s surrealist paintings reflect symbolic expressions of a genius who was born already knowing how to paint.”
– Jonathan Green

Surrealism is the inspiration for Hagerty’s art, from his early watercolors of the 1970’s to the brilliant oil paintings of today. Surrealism is expansive, psychoanalytical, experimental and pluralistic – a good fit for Hagerty’s world view.

“Surrealism collapses the laws of space and time, permits all synchronicities and juxtapositions and nurtures the logic of the dream. The style of surrealism is a visual language that allows me – a southerner by birth who is also trained in the rigors and disciplines of science – to explore and express my obsessions with deep history, fascination with myth and symbol, and inexhaustible curiosity about color and form.”

Hagerty began painting after he entered Duke University Medical school in 1973. While studying psychiatry, a professor suggested that he sketch his dreams. “I’ve drawn every day since. It is something special that I was meant to do… to find a language in which you can express yourself, hold a mirror to yourself and learn about yourself.”

In the past 15 years, Hagerty has intensified his colors and the dynamic energy of his painting while exploring both new and familiar subjects. “I like to do a lot of different styles, and a big advantage for me is being self-taught, because there are no rules, basically. If I can get just a frame of an image, I can create a picture.”

Richard Hagerty is a polymath, driven in many ways. He paints as a means of understanding the world and his place in it. The imagery that comes out of his mind is surreal, vast, multi-cultural and blended. He spends even more time these days creating art, and sees it as constantly moving forward and evolving.

Richard ‘Duke’ Hagerty paints the world of dreams. In the tradition of the surrealist movement of the 1920’s and 1930’s, he documents the disinterested play of thoughts in a world devoid of reason. Hagerty does not venture into an interpretation of the deep subconscious like many surrealists, such as Rene Magritte, Yves Tanguy or Salvador Dali. Rather he captures the whimsical fantasies and random expressions of thought absent of all control, in the tradition of Paul Klee and Joan Miro. In this vein Hagerty has brought surrealist expression to bear on the lowcountry scene.

Raised in Charleston, Richard Hagerty received his first introduction to the visual arts through cultural impresario and first female director of The Charleston Museum, Laura Bragg. A mentor and promoter of young talent, Bragg hosted a local salon that Hagerty occasionally attended as a youth in the 1960’s. There, he was made aware of the late-fifteenth and early-sixteenth century Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch, best known for his extraordinarily individualistic biblical scenes.

In adopting Bosch’s flat style, seen as abandonment of natural lighting, chiaroscuro, and plasticity of form, Hagerty inhabits his paintings with fantastical images that occasionally reflect their original source. Entirely self-taught, his artistic endeavors took new meaning in medical school when he became interested in psycho-analytical dream theory.

Initially working in watercolor, Hagerty has turned his attention to executing large canvases in oil. While these immense paintings are not as intricately painted, nor do they possess the vibrant translucency of his works on paper, they demonstrate the artist’s willingness to address formal abstract compositional theory on a monumental scale. However, his large-scale oils still retain many of the playful characteristics for which he is best known.

Hagerty has been the focus of one-person exhibitions chiefly at the Kraskin Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia and the Jan Goin Gallery in Charleston. He has been featured in exhibitions at the Albany Museum of art in Georgia, the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, and has participated in the Piedmont Arts Festival in Atlanta and the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston. In 1984 and 1990, his work was chosen for the Piccolo Spoleto poster. His paintings are in numerous private collections in the region and in the collection at the Gibbes Museum of Art.

The realities of a demanding medical career, a large family and an active civic life are the fountainhead for Richard Hagerty’s dreams. Through his paintings, he distills the sober aspects of his life into a highly-personalized fantasy world that appeals to a public grown weary of the harsh realities of the wakeful state.”

Angela D. Mack

Curator, Gibbes Museum of Art

414 King Street, Charleston, SC 29403

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