“My work isn’t art for art's sake, it’s about life. I have no patience with obscure or unintelligible art - I want to be understood.” Frederick Hart has been described as America's greatest living representational artist. He has gone completely against the grain of the contemporary art world; substance and beauty are the chief criteria of his work.
Hart was born in Atlanta in 1943 while his father was serving in World War II. His mother died suddenly when Hart was three years old and he was subsequently cared for by his mother's family in rural South Carolina
during his early childhood years. He moved to Washington, D.C. when his father remarried in the early 1950's where he attended public school. At age sixteen, he was admitted as a philosophy major to the University of South Carolina.
Hart returned to Washington, D.C. with a desire to study art and attended the Corcoran College of Art and Design and American University where he studied painting and drawing. Later, after sculpting a bust of a girlfriend, he realized that sculpture provided a form of drawing that possessed weight, volume, presence and gravity.
As his interest in sculpture began to flourish, Hart became an apprentice stone carver at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. working on gargoyles. In 1971, while Hart was still working on the stone of the cathedral, an international competition was announced to find a sculptor for the cathedral's west facade. After three years of work and at the age of thirty-one, Hart was commissioned to create The Creation which has been described as ''the most monumental commission for religious sculpture in the United States in the twentieth century.'' Hart converted to Catholicism late in life.
It has been said that Hart was the greatest figurative sculptor since Daniel Chester French. ''He not only created works of great beauty and gravitas, he was singularly responsible for restoring to American public monuments and memorials an iconology worthy of a great nation.''
Hart's relationship with the art establishment was mixed. During most of his lifetime, the ''mainstream art world'' was dominated by non-traditional movements such as Pop art; figurative sculpture was out of fashion and Hart's heroic and religious style was out of step with the art magazines and museum curators of the times. Hart never had a major museum show or retrospective during his lifetime.
Despite this, his acrylic sculptures (generally cast in limited editions of several hundred and selling for around US$ 3000) were very successful in commercial art galleries, earning him a steady and significant income. Due to his widespread popular appeal and successful public works, by the end of his lifetime Hart was rapidly gaining in recognition and his bronzes (as of 2006) sell for several hundred thousand dollars.