Obituary: Ross Hamilton
Thursday 17 September 1992
Ross Hamilton was a talented antique dealer whose style helped transform the Pimlico Road, between Lower Sloane Street and Buckingham Palace Road, into an internationally famous centre of the London antique trade. He was a fiercely proud Australian who, as an emigre, needed the nurture of Europe while constantly impatient with English reserve. He was gifted with a naturally discerning eye and a keen visual memory.
Encouraged by Roderick Cameron and David Hicks, who detected his flair in Sydney, he arrived in London on the day of the Investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969. Ruth Sheradski's shop LOOT was setting the new trend for decorative antique dealing and, working for her, he developed his passion for collecting and dealing.
By 1973 he had his first shop in the Pimlico Road. His sumptuous eclectic mix of pictures, furniture and objects attracted dealers and private buyers from every part of the world. He loved the chase, finding that one unregarded and overlooked object and then arranging and rearranging his shops with great skill to give them brilliance and allure.
He sensed, or scented, the quality of the things he brought together - be they an 18th-century gentleman's clothes press, 17th- century portraits, oriental lacquer, porcelain mirrors, a Japanese bronze bear of near life-size, a marmoset cage or Jacobean gilded side-tables. From this profusion a rock star would find a Georgian overmantel; an American museum curator, a missing example of Bostonian cabinet-making; an academic collector, a 19th-century water-colour; and a European crowned head, a 17th-century portrait of a national hero. He described himself as a 'truffle- hound' with an instinct to nose out the objet juste: a rare gift which formal training would probably have blurred.
He was a dandy, taking pride in his appearance and good looks, touchy, lacking self-esteem yet keen to make his mark. He conquered alcoholism and addiction to nicotine by sheer will-power amid the trauma of a quadruple heart-bypass operation in his late thirties.
He had all the qualities to make him a brilliant interior decorator but conspicuously lacked the patience that would have been necessary to accommodate the whims of a client. He was fiercely dogmatic and individual in matters of style, and fiercely loyal when his affections were engaged. He poured all his creative energy into the ante-Mayle Provencal farmhouse in the Vaucluse which he transformed from a woebegone wreck in an open field into a magical enclosure of terrace walls and a pool, conceived as a canal which reflected the Luberon hills.
He was thrilled when his mentor David Hicks saw it and rejoiced in his achievement, and only, and rightly, suggested one change - that the windows in the salon be six inches deeper. When stricken by Aids he railed against what he knew to be the dying light. With characteristic moral courage he lived to the uttermost, braving the disfigurement, which was particularly hard for him; but he won in that fight the deepest regard and admiration which he ironically had always thought had eluded him.
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