Profile: Royal Robertson (1936-1997)

Royal Robertson also known as the self-proclaimed Prophet Royal Robertson, was an American artist.

Early life and marriage

Born in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana, on 21 October 1936, Robertson later moved to Baldwin, Louisiana. He spent almost his entire life in Louisiana. Robertson left school having completed the eighth grade. In his late teens he apprenticed as a sign painter and traveled to the West coast in his early twenties working as a field hand and sign painter. He returned to Louisiana in the 1950s to care for his mother where he continued to work as a sign painter. He married Adell Brent in 1955 and they had eleven children. Their marriage ended after 19 years when Adell left him for another man, moved to Texas taking their children with her, and became a minister.

Works

Robertson remained in Louisiana after his marriage ended and became a recluse.  He was largely scorned by his neighbors and was overcome by misogynistic rage towards his former wife and women in general. Robertson suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and claimed to have had his first vision, a futuristic vision of a space ship with God as driver, when he was fourteen. When his marriage ended he began to record his visions in his imagery and writings. Numerous hallucinatory visions of space travel where aliens predicted the End of Days through complex numerological formulas and warned him about the dangers of adultery and fornication led Robertson to believe that he was a victim of a global female conspiracy. He believed that his ex-wife’s betrayal would be the cause of the cataclysmic destruction of humanity, and that his art was divinely sanctioned. According to social anthropologist Frédéric Allamel, Robertson saw himself as a patriarch in search of a new Zion and a prophet whose legacy would consist of his apocryphal work. He identitied himself as “Libra Patriarch Prophet Lord Archbishop Apostle Visionary Mystic Psychic Saint Royal Robertson”.

Materials and themes

Robertson worked on materials like poster board and paper or wood using magic markers, tempera paint, colored pencils, ball point pens and glitter. He studied the Bibleand there are many references to it in his work together with references to “girlie magazines”, comic strips and science fiction. He was preoccupied with numerology and biblical prophecies of the End of Days from the Book of Revelation. Frequent themes included images of aliens and their spaceships, Bible verses and religious references, fire breathing, godzilla-like monsters, snakes, architectural drawings of houses and temples in futuristic cities, superheroes, and portraits of Adell often identified with Jezebel and other Amazon-like “harlots”. His colorful drawings often included rambling, judgmental, ranting texts, sometimes in comic book-like speech balloons, about “adulterous whores” and unfaithful spouses. He frequently referenced precise and painful moments in his life, particularly his wife’s unfaithfulness to him and produced calendars chronicling memories of his marriage in short journal notations scribbled in each date’s block. Much of his work included images that conveyed a sense of artist pitted against the forces of evil. His works were often double-sided and when he signed pieces, he would add “Prophet” to the front of his name, or alternatively “Patriarch”.

Home

Robertson’s home and yard were decorated with hundreds of his signs, drawings, calendars and shrines. The exterior was decorated with a variety of painted and rotating signs including warnings that “whores” and “bastards” should stay away and misogynistic messages denouncing “bad” women often addressed to his ex-wife Adell. The interior was decorated with his drawings pinned to every available wall. Many drawings inside his home were of his ex-wife and the interior included a number of shrines dedicated to her. According to Allamel, Robertson developed a “complicated spatial ritualization” before he would allow visitors into his “sacred/profane inner space”. His home was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in August 1992. Two collectors helped him file papers with the federal government to recover from his losses.

Death

Robertson was found lying unconscious in the backyard of his home by his daughter Dinah where he died suddenly from a heart attack in 1997 in Louisiana, aged 60.

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