Robert Clutton (1932-2016) lived in Ajijic from about 1959 to 1961. His time in Mexico introduced him to the pantheon of ancient Aztec and Maya gods which so strongly influenced much of his later art. He revisited Ajijic several times after this initial extended stay in the village.
“Bob” Clutton, “Roberto” to his Mexican friends, was born in England on 5 June 1932, brought up in Wales, and passed away in San Francisco on 15 August 2016 at the age of 84.
He left Wales in 1949 to cross the Atlantic on the Mauretania. (Until late in life he much preferred ocean liners to aircraft.) He settled in Baltimore where he became the Art Director for Black & Decker. In October 1955, he was one of numerous artists exhibiting in the The Artists’ Union of Baltimore annual show.
By 1959 Clutton was living and working in Ajijic on Lake Chapala. Several of his paintings from this time can be seen on this Facebook page of the San Francisco Senior Center. This painting of the Posada Ajijic in 1959 (below) is a fine example of Clutton’s style during his first months at Lake Chapala.
Former Ajijic gallery owner Katherine Goodridge Ingram remembers Bob Clutton as a lovely man, who was well-liked by everyone in the community. During his time in Mexico, Clutton became increasingly fascinated by the “gods of ancient Mexico” and images of these gods became a frequent theme in his later paintings.
When he decided to leave Ajijic in 1961, he chose to move to San Francisco because that was where “all the interesting people he met in Mexico” were from. He continued to make his living as a professional artist in that city for more than fifty years. He retained some close ties to Mexican friends in Ajijic, and revisited the village several times.
A newspaper feature in 1968, entitled “Art by the Foot” described how Clutton, “a bronzed, bearded, no-nonsense British artist” was making “made-to-measure bas-reliefs” in his Divisadero Street studio. The bas-reliefs, “designed to be decorative indoors and architectural assets outdoors”, used Aztec symbols and colors, and relied on the interplay of sun and shade to emphasize the materials, relief and texture.
Clutton was still producing “formal paintings” which also showed the influence of Mexico, and was represented by the Vorpal Gallery in San Francisco. A solo show of his oils and acrylics at that gallery in 1969 brought a wider audience for his work. Shortly after Clutton petitioned for US citizenship in 1971, the Vorpal Gallery also included examples of his work in its 1971 Christmas Show, which also featured paintings by John Denning, Muldoon Elder, Roy Glover, Stephen Haines Hall, Bruce Sherratt (who had previously lived for several years at Lake Chapala) and Gary Smith.
Clutton also exhibited in Los Angeles and in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where a show of his oil paintings opened at Galeria Uno (Morelos 561) in Puerto Vallarta on 23 March 1993.
In 1988, Clutton designed the poster for the 1988 Haight Ashbury Street Fair. He enjoyed social events, garden parties and dinners and surrounded himself with creative people, making for lively and entertaining discussions. In his final years, Clutton was active as an artist at the San Francisco Senior Center.
This is an updated version of a profile first published 1 December 2016.
Several chapters of Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of Change in a Mexican Village offer more details about the history of the artistic community in Ajijic, as well as the history of the Posada Ajijic.
- My sincere thanks to Jane Clutton for sharing memories of her husband, and for graciously permitting me to share images of paintings belonging to his family.
- Jane Clutton; personal communication, October 2016.
- Peninsula Times Tribune, 1 Jan 1972, 42.
- San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle, California Living, Week of March 31, 1968: “Art by the Foot” [copy supplied by Jane Clutton]
- San Francisco Chronicle. 2016. Robert Clutton – obituary, San Francisco Chronicle from Oct. 2 to Oct. 7, 2016.
- Vorpal Galleries. Robert Clutton. 1969. San Francisco: Vorpal Galleries.
Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.
Tony Burton’s books include “Lake Chapala: A Postcard History” (2022), “Foreign Footprints in Ajijic” (2022), “If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants” (2020), (available in translation as “Si Las Paredes Hablaran”), “Mexican Kaleidoscope” (2016), and “Lake Chapala Through the Ages” (2008).
Is there any art available/for sale by Robert Clutton?
Thanks for getting in touch. Robert Clutton’s works rarely come up at auction but I have passed your enquiry on to his widow.
I recently found a painting of Robert Clutton, and I wondering if anyone can evaluate authenticity of it?
Thanks for your comment. If you’d like to send me a photo or photos of it (including the signature), I’ll do what I can to establish its authenticity. Please send photos as attachments to an email. TB
robert clutton was my first and longtime friend in san francisco and both my daughters lived at times in his large house in the upper Ashbury. and we all knew his long time mate, Willett. I never met a wife Jane.
Thanks for your interesting comments. Robert and Jane first met in 1996. Robert’s poster (a gift from Jane) for the Haight Ashbury Street Fair hangs in pride of place in front of my desk! TB
We met Roberto thru Sammy Tannenbaum, rarified air Oakland/Berkeley attorney, real abalone – mussels Tom Hand, Bodega Bay fisherman and whizzed up & down coast in his big convertible to his hair down free-form Haight parties, We ain’t never gonna forget his cooking of food and living.
Pat and Ute (fellow artist) Goggins,
Thanks for sharing your great memories of Roberto. They must have been really fun times!
I’m an old friend of Roberto and saw him shortly before ge passed when he was living with “Lady” Jane in her property. I met him in the late 69’s when he had the glorious house on upper Ashberry. He visited me many times when I moved to Europe. He helped me a lot over the years and our mutual respect was wonderful. He lived my parents, especially my dad and after my father died, I gave Robert my dad’s Shrine “clown” car, a Fiat 500, which Robert loved. We had great fun both in San Francisco and London and in Spain with a mutual buddy, the great “Geezer”. Long story short. The last time I visited Jane I lost my 40 Yr old address book with Robert and Jane’s address and phone number when my rented camper van was broken into as it was parked on Masonic St. Is there a way that you can give me Jane’s address and zip code on Northpoint and her phone number and email address as I need to try and contact her. WW3 is breaking out over here and I hope my daughter and her mother won’t get stuck over here. Thank you in advance. Yours truly, Stephen Bennett
Thanks for your comments. I will pass them on to Jane and I’m sure you will hear from her in due course.