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Artist Studio: Richard Berghammer

Richard Berghammer
26 Equinox Crescent
Sudbury, ON  P3B 0B7
Phone: 705 698-2831

Born: 1940 (Lloydminster Alberta Canada)

Lived/Active: Northwest Territories/Ontario/Alberta / Canada/Canada

Profession(s): Painter

Known for: Wildlife, Landscape, Animal, Art on a Leather Canvas

Style(s): Realist, Contemporary, Other, Influenced by Inuit Culture

Medium(s): Acrylic, Other, Cloth/Fabric, Using Leather as a canvas ie; three dimentional.

Price Information as of 06/22/2012:
Appraised several times by the members of the Int'nl Art Appraisers Association

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 Richard Berghammer
Bounty on a Grizzly
For Sale
  Richard Berghammer
North of Sachs Harbour
For Sale

Artist Biography:
Richard Berghammer 72, was born in Lloydminster Alberta Canada in 1940 and grew up on a small farm in Northern Saskatchewan. At a very early age, his grandfather,Ignutz Wack, a harness maker/farmer, introduced the young boy to leather as he worked away on saddles and harness almost every day. He taught Richard how to draw flowers on leather and with a specially constructed table knife he showed him how to cut/carve lines in the flowers and grasses which would later be placed onto the fancy riding saddles that he would construct. At the age of about 4 or five, Richard already showed signs of some talent in the art field and his paitiant grandfather quickly recognized this unique feature and incouraged the boy to continue his learning each time that he came to visit his grandfather on his farm not far away from his home. As time went on Richard drew with a carpinters pencil, the picture of a Blackbird which he had seen in the woods some days before  and he finally transfered the subject onto a small piece of leather. The picture was about a foot square and using pigment dyes and a high spirit driver, he painted the picture in full color. That picture would become the first piece of three-dimentional art which the boy kept to start his lifelong collection.

As Richard Berghammer was growing up he practiced painting every chance that he could and he became better at his craft every day. His mother 'Emily' and his grandfather encouraged him to continue his work but his father 'John' was not in favour of his son becoming an artist when he could be a farmer and he simply refused to allow Richard to continue what he called,'this foolishness'and he insisted that he stop painting at the age of about 6 or seven years old. But Richard and his mother were simply heart broken to learn about the harsh rules that his father put into place and together with his grandad they decided that the young artist would paint in complete silence from the rest of the family and Richard painted in silence from everyone even his siblings for nearly 60 years.

When Richard's father put the restrictions on his sons artistic activities, life became much more difficult for the young boy because his father treated him much diffrent then the rest of the growing family. Often he accused Richard of lying or cheating for the simple reason to punish him physically and on several occasions he beat his son very badly for no reason just because Richard wanted to paint. Eventually Richard confided in his most favorate teacher, Lorna McKechnie, and when he did the teacher asked him to draw a picture on the blackboard each day at lunch hour and she would explain to the class every day about the work Richard was doing. When his father found out about his work at school, the punishment got even worse and at the age of 12 years, Richard ran away from home to work on a cattle ranch for the winter. It was a prime opportunity to get away from a very difficult life at home and after working more than five months feeding cattle Richard was paid $350.00 and he brought the money back to his mother and quickly left home again so he could paint elsewhere away from his father.

In 1953 at the age of 13 he went to Edmonton Alberta and with art supplies in hand he asked a bush pilot to take him into the arctic where he might paint in absolute contentment and the elderly pilot finally agreed to take Richard north and into the Canadian high Arctic. On their journey in the twin-engine Otter, they stopped in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories to drop off some supplies and then they were off to the north and the Inuit settlement of Fort Ray which was located on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. It was there where Richard met his first Inuit family and they took him into their earthen dwelling which was built with some logs into the side of a steep embankment. The family were very obliging and provided Richard with everything that he needed in life. He would paint every day as he lived with the very kind family and as winter approched some months later, the Inuit ladies of the settlement even constructed for Richard  a special caribou outfit so he could withstand the harsh winter months ahead. The family treated him like a son and he soon learned the ways of the people of the far north. As the summer went on they took him onto the land and taught him to fish and dry the catch and when winter finally set in they took him on hunting trips for caribou, walrus and seal not to mention the many areas where sugnificant historical artifacts existed on the land, so important to the people who lived there.

The most difficult thing that Richard found with the Inuit people was the food because he could not get used to eating raw meat and for several months they cooked the food for him but when on the tundra, he was expected to eat raw meat and that was very difficult for Richard for a number of months. Realizing that the young boy was always hungry, an elderly woman encouraged him to slice the meat very thinly with a sharp knife and simply swallow it without chewing it, to try to avoid the taste and that is how he got used to eating raw meat with the Inuit people.

Richard Berghammer painted in the north from 1953 until 1983 when he was forced to come back to the south for medical reasons. He developed a spinal disorder which was believed to have been inflicted upon him by his father at a young age and he needed to obtain special hospital treatment to stay alive. Not able to withstand life in the south on a continued basis he lived with the Canadian Indians for a time but he finally married a lady from Southern Ontario and they had a daughter, Sara-Jane, with whom he lives today in Sudbury Ontario Canada. His work has been appraised several times and is said to be very rare. Only several months ago (in 2012), it was confirmed to be the only such collection on the globe by the International Art Appraisers Association.

There is much to be said about this remarkable painter and it is not possible to document everything on these pages but Berghammer is very greatful for the help that the Inuit gave him throughout life. Had it not been for these kind people, life may well have been much more difficult for him especially when he was very young. The Inuit families with whom he lived from time to time provided everything for him throughout the many years that he lived and painted among them. Never did any of the host families ask for repayment for the help they gave him so freely and even today, Berghammer insists that no other people in Canada had such an impact on his life as did the Inuit.

In his life he painted over 120 leather paintings and also painted some acrylic pieces on canvas when he could not afford to buy leather. Most of his work is wildlife but also heavily influenced by the Indian/Inuit cultures. Many of the Inuit pieces are historical in nature and many are very simple just as the life of the Inuit was. Pieces of his work have been shipped around the world and he had a number of shows in North America. Today in poor health he paints almost daily but because of his spinal problems he has been warned not to fly in aircraft, at least over 9,000 feet in elivation.

Very recently he brought his art to the buying public and only recently has the family  decided to sell some of his work.
Ms. Kelly Clark, for
The Berghammer Family.

Barr Colony Museum, Lloydminster, Saskatchewan

Exhibition Record (Museums, Institutions and Awards):
1982 Church Street Cultural Centre Georgetown Ontario Solo Show
1983 CIBC Toronto Ontario Solo Show
1984 Tecumseh Gallery Tottenham Ontario solo Show
1985 Kingston Public Library, Ontario solo show.
1985 Barr Colony Museum Lloydminster Alta/Sask Solo show
1986 Royal Butanical Gardens Burlington Ontario Solo Show.
1988 Rockefeller Centre NYC. New York USA. Solo Show
1992 The Copper Kettle Georgetown Ontario Solo Show
2001 Rockefeller Centre NYC New York U.S.A. Solo Show.

Exhibition Record (Galleries and Art Shows):
1985-2000 Barr Colony Museum, Lloydminster Alta/Sask Canada Solo Show
1988 Rockefeller centre NYC New York USA. Solo Show
2005 Mining Museum, Elliot Lake Ontario Canada Solo Show
2001 Rockefeller Centre, New York City U.S.A. Solo Show

Magazine and Newspaper References:
2008 Standard Painting Manitoulin Island Ontario
2004 Northern Alberta Pioneers
2003 Toronto Star Bounty on a Grizzly
2001 Standard Berghammer Christmas
2002 Barrie Examiner The Nurses Cap
2002 The Independant Mayor's Rededication of Berghammer Art.
2005 The Report Cover Story, Berghammer Leather Painting by Colby Cosh
2005 The Star Parry Sound Islands
2000 LeVoyageur Sudbury Painting Competition
2004 Artspace 2000, Canadian realist painter in the north
2003 Star Parry Sound Painting a railway bridge
2004 Sudbury Star Presentation to the Dictionary o f the Masters in Europe
2004 Meridian Booster Lloydminster Dictionary of the Masters
1980 Georgetown Indiana USA Painter visits collage painting class.
2001 Chicago Tribune Featured Artist Chicago Ilanoise Rockefeller Centre Showing NYC.
2006 Art Network News Berghammer, historic Inuit Flavour
1983 Daily Times Brampton Creations of Leather
1984 Lloydminster Times Alberta Art in a harness shop
1986 Meridian Booster Alberta Unique Collection
1981 Mississauga News Meeting A.Y. Jackson in Toronto 1955

Cross References and Sources:
My Meeting with A.Y. Jackson, Toronto Canada 1955.

Artist Statement:

Although my life was a very difficult one when I was a child it changed drasticly when I relocated into the Canadian Arctic at 13 years of age. Painting in the north with the Inuit people and the Indians was a dream come true for an individual who wanted only to paint. I had no money whatsoever so the local people arranged for me to travel by air and somehow, somebody paid for my many trips to every settlement that I decided to visit. Often too the many seasoned pilots would take me places at no charge if I was standing at the airstrip awaiting such an opportunity. They would ask me to hide behind the mounds of freight heading north because they wanted nobody to know that I was a free passenger.

It was necessary for me to travel back to the south to store my finished work, buy more supplies and eventually head north again. I would always find a job for several months, usually on a farm to make enough money to get supplies and maybe paint for a time in the south but always go north again for my next artistic exploration. On one occasion when I was 15 years old I traveled to Toronto Ontario to meet A.Y.Jackson, a famous painter with 'The Group of Seven' and when I showed him my leather paintings he was very excited for me. He asked me never to stop my painting and he said to make my art the only real thing in my life, no matter what and to this very day I have followed his advice very, very closely.

Throughout my life of painting I often wanted to teach someone how to do this work because it seemed so very unusual but even my little daughter,(Sara-Jane) did not really have the interest to carry on her father's ambition. I suppose the best that I can do is to discribe in the pages herein exactly how I learned my trade. Except for my grandfathers teachings, the entire process of my work was trial and error at least for the first 15 years until I got to understand the medium adiquately.

Working with the Leather medium in  the way I had chosen was not by any means the easiest form of art that one might underake. I suppose that many circumstances surrounding the selection of this material gave me many wonderful ideas in which to prepare a top-grade cowhide for the purpose of making a three-dimentional leather painting. In my extended years of leather painting, since 1945, I had approched many craftsmen in the leather medium,(harness makers, western boot makers & clothiers) over the years, only for the purpose of gaining some knowledge which might make my artistic ambitions somewhat easier to achieve. But in all my efforts to gain information, in Canada and the United States, I have yet to  find an individual who could offer any wise words of experience in the use of this difficult material. I eventually decided that there was nobody in North America who had taken on this medium in the way that I had chosen to do. For that reason much of my work prior to the age of about 12 was largely produced by trial and error as was mentioned elsewhere in these pages. I was also forced to rework some of my paintings at a young age but knowing how much I loved this work, and knowing that I must be creating something extremely unusual in the area of art,little if anything could stand in the way of my determination to continue in the leather medium.

As a young child playing in the sand beside our farmhouse in Saskatchewan Canada, I could dampen the sand with water and make my fathers horses look round as they appeared in real life. When I noticed how my grandfather dampened the leather and carved floral emblems upon it, it gave me the idea to make horses and other animals round using leather and once complete I could even color the animals as they appeared in real life. At some point my grandfather gave me some leather upon which to design animals and when I pushed the animals out from behind the picture which I had created was three dimentional and it was this work which facinated me so much as a young boy. As time went on I would eventually learn that this process was called 'bas relief' but I was already a young man when I was made aware of this term.

As the years went by I would purchase leather from manufacturers in other countries which might suit a particular picture which I wanted to create. One could never be certain what picture might suit the leather which was already placed on order but once the leather arrived and was moistened, one could grade the resilience of the material and then determain what picture it was most suited for. But even that was not always an absolute fact because there were times when I was well into creating a large subject and then realized that my leather would not completely suit my plan. In those cases I was forced to scrap the project even though I had already put 200 hours into my creation. Needless to say I was very discouraged.After spending $2-300.00 for a special hide and an extended period of time put into the work, the project had to be cancelled and the material distroyed. Throughout my life I have scrapped 7 or eight such hides for one reason or another. Either I had made an error in my judgement of assessing the subject for the material at hand or the leather was not suitable as a result of poor processing by the tannery. In any event I was extremely discouraged to learn that a loss was inevitable and only the paintings which I had already completed gave me the encouragement to continue in this difficult field.

The preperation of the tanned hide was as important as the creation which I was about to put upon it. I would order special hides from Venezuela because they were of ample size to suit some of my intended projects but on the other hand, I would import hides from England when a superb quality was more important than the actual size. Sometimes I would purchase 10 to twelve hides and due to the many imperfections, I was forced to return many of them to the tannery and they were usually returned for a hefty 40% restocking charge. So, when you add the cost of the shipment both ways and you include the restocking charge, often returning them was not the prudent thing to do so I simply ran them through a band saw and threw them into the garbage.

On one occasion I was asked if I belonged to a Leather Art Association because if more hides were being used by a large membership, it would naturally drive the cost down. But in all my years of painting on leather I have found nobody who worked in this medium in a serious manner so it was always necessary to pay top price for the best quality product. As well, if the superior product was not available from one tannery in one country, I simply had no choice but order from another.

When the leather is dampened with hot steam,it is possible to create a subject by the process of bas relief and once the subject is finished, the relief work can be held in place by providing a solid backing. As soon as the backing is in place the entire picture is glued to a flat wooden base which makes the work perminent. As the process dries, the subject is manipulated with a sharp knife to create fine lines of art and every detail of the picture can be placed on the three dimentional leather. To make the picture look realistic, it is important to apply the detail quickly in order to obtain that natural appearance. After the bas relief has dried out, it is soon to late to create the detail of the painting because the boyance of that section of work is already expensed and is never available to the craftsman again. Time is always extremely important because you only have a small window of time in which to work and make the picture look realistic. On a very large creation it is always necessary to rest oneself for a couple of hours only to awake in order to continue the work at hand, section by section. Then, after several hours of work, one would rest for a few hours again until it was time to create another section of work.This would go on, day and night until the entire picture is complete. There are few artistic endevours which I have seen that could be remotely so demanding as these leather creations but perhaps the difficulties of this work can be considered part of a challenge and enjoyment of the finished product.It is not difficult to spend 3 to 400 hours on one picture just to create a subject and several hundred hours in addition to apply the paint. The most difficult part of painting leather is the shading. The pores texture of the material will suck color into areas which were not initially intended to receive color and it is this color process which is so time consuming. One of my pieces took me 1200 hours to complete but my idle time was 2000 hours. This idle time is the time that one must set aside for waiting and these hours must be carefully calibrated in order to create a painting which is true to life in appearance.

Much of my work is colored through the use of powdered pigments and high spirit dyes which is a very difficult process indeed but of late, I have combined pigment dyes with some acrylic paints because it makes the work more alive and perhaps more colorful. I have learned that many people prefer the dyes over acrylics but one thing for sure, people need to see them hanging in my house to get the full appreciation of the work. The photographs give the viewer a snapshot of the work but most every visitor says that they deffinately need to be seen hanging on the wall.

One other thing that must be explained is the natural imperfections of the hide upon which one must work. All cowhides have scars, stretch marks, wire cuts and other blemishes which to a degree should be hidden into the picture as much as possible but as you may note, not all such marks can be eliminated. In some cases blemishes can be worked into forest areas of a picture while drawing out the detail of the subject and sometimes scratch marks are eliminated by painting over them. But it is simply not possible to take away all the blemishes which are natural and on the animal before it was slaughtered. Tallow marks are also evident now and again but are not always noted when a hide is purchased. Over an extended period of time, tallow marks will dry up and eventually disappear but other blemishes remain on the picture forever.

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of any art creation is the actual drawing ut of the subject matter which every artist must consider prior to starting his piece of artwork. Every artist I would believe, works in a diffrent way to create his subject. Some artists take to the field to sketch while others take a camera to capture an animal or there scene of particular interest. I could never afford the cost of a camera, film and then developing the picture so I relied heavily upon my mind to hold the scene in place until I had the opportunity to do the paintings. In the woods or the tundra in the north I had many encounters with wildlife and with most of my pictures, I can remember exactly where I was when the encounter took place. I also love the rivers, the mountains, prairies and even the remote areas of the arctic so I have painted many beautiful spots that I have visited where animals were not involved. I had a saying which I often shared with the children or adults around me; 'we can never know where we will be tomorrow but I am certainly in my glory today'. I loved being an artist and I am certain that the good lord put me on earth to do just that.

I am filled with joy when visitors arrive to see my work. Often they come from areas in North America but also from Europe and even the far East. Many of my very close neighbors know that I paint but have not seen my work. If and when they do come however, it can be the talk of the town and they call me up long after their visit to ask me questions about one thing or another. I love the visitors and encourage anyone to drop in for coffee or a visit. We can have a great time and one that we all will not soon forget.

Richard L. Berghammer
Sudbury Ontario Canada

Review of Artist's Work:

Dear Mr. Berghammer;

My husband and I had an opportunity to see your leather art collection recently at the Rockefeller Centre in New York City and I must advise you that it was an experience that we shell never forget. Your work is like nothing that we have ever seen before and we have travelled the world to galleries and museums alike to view special collections. We have been at the Louvre in Paris, galleries in Amsterdam, Brussels and Spain but nothing that we have seen was anything like your beautiful leather paintings. They are so realistic, refreshing and easy to understand and after four visits with our friends we would definately go back to see it all again.

It is so very interesting to know that much of your work was done in the Arctic with the Inuit but I believe that is what makes it so unique and interesting. Thank you so very much for the opportunity.

May God Bless you and keep you at your wonderful trade.

Dr. William & Irene Hendricks
New York City, New York.


We first met Richard Berghammer at the local Tim Horton's Restaurant while having coffee with all our friends. My husband and I enjoyed talking with Richard and hearing about his life as a painter among the Inuit people of the High Arctic and he invited us to read his memoirs, 'Some Inuit in my Blood', and once we did we were very excited to see his unusual art collection, first hand. One day he invited us to his home and the place where he works and it was an opportunity which we could not pass by.

We were so excited to see his unusual paintings after realizing that it took several hundred hours to complete each piece. As soon as you walked into his home you saw painting after painting linning the wall and we were both immediately impressed with the three dimentional leather work. The trees and animals in each piece seemed to come to life right before your eyes. They are incredible to say the very least. If you are ever in a position to see his work or own one of his pieces, I can assure you that you will never be dissapointed.

Thank you kindly for inviting us to your home.
Lorraine & Lucien Landry
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.


Art Exhibition at the Pearson Centre

I hope this note from a senior who moved to Elliot Lake less than a year ago will encourage our residence to make an extra effort to view the wonderful work of Richard Berghammer . This collection is pleasantly set up in the Pearson Centre and I think that it could be said that, ' We have a gold mine in our midst'. And just to think that it is available to us in Elliot Lake Ontario and it free of charge.
Mr. C. Wilson
Elliot Lake Ontario Canada.


Mr. Berghammer;

Thank you for the open invitation to visit your solo show. I was not only surprised but shocked to see such wonderful work. The medium is very unique and refreshing. This collection should be sent to the Museum of Man in Washington D.C. USA. I simply have never seen anything like it in my lifetime of travel.

Thanks for allowing us the opportunity to view your special work.
Mr. Bill Cole
Massie, Ontario Canada.

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