James Hampton (artist)

James Hampton
James Hampton (artist).jpg
Born(1909-04-08)April 8, 1909
DiedNovember 4, 1964(1964-11-04) (aged 55)
Resting placeWarren Chapel Baptist Church, Elloree, South Carolina
NationalityAmerican
Known forthe Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nation's Millennium General Assembly
Styleoutsider art

James Hampton (April 8, 1909–November 4, 1964) was an American outsider artist from Washington D.C. who worked as a janitor but secretly built a large assemblage of religious art from scavenged materials known as the Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly which is currently on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.[1] Art critic Robert Hughes, of Time magazine wrote that the Throne "may well be the finest work of visionary religious art produced by an American".[2][3]


Early life

James Hampton was born in 1909 in Elloree, South Carolina as one of four children to James, Sr. and Sarah (Johnson) Hampton.[4] His father, who had abandoned the family, was a gospel singer and a traveling Baptist preacher but also a known criminal who had worked on chain gangs.[5] In 1928, Hampton moved to Washington, DC and shared an apartment with his older brother Lee. Hampton worked as a short-order cook until 1943 when he was drafted into the United States Army Air Forces. He served with the 385th Aviation Squadron in Texas, Hawaii, and in the jungles of Saipan and Guam. The segregated unit[2] was noncombatant and duties included carpentry and maintenance of air strips. Hampton built a small shrine-like object during his time in Guam which he incorporated into his larger artwork later.[1] He was awarded the Bronze Star, honorably discharged in 1945 and returned to Washington, D.C.[5] In 1946, Hampton was hired by the General Services Administration as a janitor and worked there until his death.[6]

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