ARTIST'S PORTRAIT * MARK HAMPTON


Mark in his Southampton rose garden

Mark Hampton - The Art of Friendship. A collection of Mark's watercolors.

Relaxing with his family; (L-R) wife Duane, Mark, daughters Alexa and Kate

Painting on the porch with daughter Alexa

The Hampton women hanging out together

Watercolor of the Melhado family's interior

A corner of designer Albert Hadley's apartment

Chiswick House, London, England

Courtyard of Samuel Reed's home in Hobe Sound, Florida

The late Mark Hampton is a man best known for being a world class interior designer and decorator, however, he excelled as an artist as well. I first saw his work as a young girl growing up in Michigan. My grandparents had proudly displayed a Christmas card from the President and Hampton's watercolor illustration of a room in the White House graced the front. I was captivated by the detail and overall beauty of his work and have maintained an interest in Mark and his career ever since.

Mark, a Plainfield, Indiana native, was a man of many talents and a very diverse background. He attended DePauw University, with a junior year abroad at The London School of Economics. His time spent living there had a profound influence on his tastes and interests and he became a lifelong Anglophile. His keen artistic skills opened the door for a job with the very hip and legendary English decorator, David Hicks. He returned to DePauw to complete his history degree and then went on to University of Michigan Law School for a brief year until he decided to switch to Art History. From there, he went on to receive a master's degree in fine art from New York University. He was hired for a Summer job by Mrs. Henry (Sister) Parish, the legendary American decorator, and this was instrumental in feeding his already growing interest in the decorative arts. He was awarded a Ford Foundation fellowship upon graduation, which facilitated travel abroad and curatorial study at the Metropolitan Museum and Museum of Modern Art. Upon completion of his studies, he started out as an American representative for David Hicks, followed by a six year stint at the venerable American decorating firm McMillen. He finally started his own business in 1976, Mark Hampton, LLC, which continues to thrive to this day, headed by his daughter, Alexa Hampton, who has distinguished herself in her own right.

During his long and fruitful career, Mark painted countless watercolors, many of which are included in a book created by his wife, Duane, in a book titled "Mark Hampton, The Art of Friendship". On many occasions, Mark created personalized works of art, in the form of handpainted birthday cards, for family, clients and friends. Even though Mark counted presidents, politicians, celebrities and socialites as his clients and companions, he never lost his down-to-earth Midwestern values. These were most evident in his work ethic, his warmth and his devotion to his wife Duane, daughters Kate and Alexa and his scores of friends. His accomplishments, too vast to list here, are many and impressive. Perhaps he is best known for being the "First Decorator" for the senior Bushes when they moved into the White House in 1989, having already done their quarters at the residence of the Vice President. He also redecorated Blair House, the President's official guest house.

In her book, Duane Hampton quotes Adele Chatfield-Taylor, president of The American Academy in Rome, as she observed that "Mark was routinely described as a Renaissance man, because [in addition to being a decorator] he was a considerable art historian, a builder, a reader, a writer, a gardener, a painter, a musician, an avid traveler, a man of wildly high spirits and IQ and a screamingly funny, champion friend." His work is detailed, personal, witty, beautiful and is never without an aspect he highly prized - coziness. The Art of Friendship is just one of several books by or about Mark, all of which I am certain you would enjoy!


Images are from the book Mark Hampton - The Art of Friendship and House Beautiful - January 1991