Little is known about Lenore Kirby Hamer, except that she was a painter active in Charleston, South Carolina, during the first half of the twentieth century. She may, simply, have been a talented “Sunday painter” who displayed her work at various local venues.

Hamer was born in Smiths Grove, in Warren County, Kentucky, a small town fifteen miles from Bowling Green. When she was married there in 1909, a newspaper announcement about her wedding described her as “very popular and attractive and quite a talented elocutionist.” Census information is contradictory: one entry indicates she attended college for four years, another that she only graduated from high school. She took instruction from Alfred Hutty who was director of the Carolina Art Association at the Gibbes Art Gallery 1920–1924. They were also neighbors and friends who painted together at Cypress Gardens, located in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, not far from Charleston.

Fortunately, Hamer signed her work as demonstrated by a few extant paintings, which indicate her skill at scenic landscapes of area locales. Their style is impressionistic with light colors, and rendered with evident brushstrokes and touches of impasto. She had her paintings framed and possibly sold at Landeau’s Art Supply Store, which collaborated in 1914 with Alice Ravenel Huger Smith on the publication of the portfolio Twenty Drawings of the Pringle House. A small drawing of a black woman selling produce resembles similar subjects by Smith and Elizabeth O’Neill Verner.            

Hamer displayed her work alongside that of her daughter, Lenore Hamer Oliver, and members of the Sketch Club of Charleston at their annual sidewalk sale. Beginning in the 1930s, these sales took place in late March on the fence across from St. Philip’s Church and were designed to appeal to the many tourists who were attracted to the Holy City at that time of year. This endeavor, among others, helped to fuel the Charleston Renaissance, a period of cultural, artistic, and preservationist renewal. The club membership was largely female, and in newspaper clippings are generally itemized as “Mrs.,” as in “Mrs. Lenore Hamer,” and “Mrs. B. King Couper” (Josephine Sibley Couper). Miss May Paine was also listed and Richard Bryan and Edward von Siebold Dingle were the only men. In 1957 Hamer participated in an exhibit, “The Studio in the Garden,” organized by Alfred Huttys widow at her home, and a reporter for the News and Courier commented “Mrs. Hamer’s oils of seascapes and tidal scenes have a pleasantly light touch and authoritative style.”

Clearly active in the Charleston art scene, according to her obituary Hamer was a member of the Charleston Artist Guild. It was founded in 1953, seven years before her death, and held regular exhibitions at the Gibbes Art Gallery (known today as the Gibbes Museum of Art). Many local artists like Smith and Verner were active there in various ways, and William Halsey served as the director of the Gibbes’ art school in the late 1940s. Corrie McCallum was an instructor there until 1953, when she, Halsey, and Willard Hirsch opened their own school. In 1959 Hamer’s daughter exhibited three watercolors and two oils, all landscapes, at the Gibbes.