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About Leone Bowers Hamilton

Leone Bowers Hamilton was an American female artist working professionally from 1926 to 1981. She painted works using oil and watercolor primarily, but also using gouache, ink and pastels on occasion. Her signature style, heavily influenced from her studies with Hans Hofmann in the mid 1940's, is brightly colored abstract expressionism.


She primarily used vibrant colors, often straight from the tube and created abstract, yet recognizable “scenes” which the viewer begins to make out the longer they study the picture. Continue reading below to learn more about her art education, career, and thoughts on painting. You'll also find block prints, poetry, and even a commemorative DAR plate!


Leone “Red” Hamilton began art studies at the age of twelve studying throughout high school at the Birmingham Seminary where she learned to love working with watercolors. She continued her art studies at Agnes Scott College from 1921 to 1926 (five years were required because no credit was given for art courses) graduating with a history degree. In addition to her study at Agnes Scott, Leone studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, the University of Georgia (under Lamar Dodd), and the Atlanta Art Institute.


I studied with Emma Jones thoughout my high school years. Her idea of water color was, "it's water color, so dip your brush in and get it wet." We'd throw water and water color all over the studio. Thanks to her I learned to love water color. She would let me stay alone after time in the studio. One day, I remember, I stayed three hours extra. 

Leone Bowers Hamilton


Her first foray into modern art was in 1943 under Howard Thomas who was then heading the Agnes Scott Art Department where she served as the art lab instructor teaching drawing and painting. In the 1945 Agnes Scott Alumni Magazine she wrote of Mr. Thomas, “I owe the acquiring of an open-minded perception of the work of other artists, a freedom from the object painted, color controlled understandingly and an awareness of negative and positive space in compositions.”

By far the biggest influence on her painting was Hans Hofmann (1880-1966) who was a pivotal figure in Abstract Expressionism and stands as one of the most important characters of post-war American art. She traveled to Provincetown, MA for summer study sessions at Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts in the summers of 1945, 1946, and 1950. During these sessions she further refined her use of abstraction and color.

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What was so wonderful for me was, he [Hans Hofmann] taught the use of space on the plane of your canvas and the control of that space, which I thought I knew, but what I knew was just filling it up.

Leone Bowers Hamilton


Her watercolors were rarely more than 12” x 14” while her oil paintings were usually quite large, one even 4 feet square. When asked why she commented,


This is very deliberate because I feel that a watercolor is an intimate sort of experience. I hold it in my lap or close in front of me. I don’t walk back and forth in front of it as I do when I’m painting an oil.

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A fund has been set up to honor Leone Hamilton and her daughter, Sarah Hamilton Leathers, who were both graduates of Agnes Scott College. The fund provides a stipend for an artist lecture on campus each year. You may send donations to: 

Sarah Hamilton Leathers '53 and Leone Bowers Hamilton '26 Arts Lecture Series Fund at Agnes Scott College, Office of Development, 141 E. College Ave., Decatur, GA 30030

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