8 January - 19 February 2021

Richard Hamilton

Towards a Definitive Statement
    We are delighted to launch our online exhibition, Richard Hamilton: Towards a Definitive Statement.

    Richard Hamilton: Towards a Definitive Statement is a major retrospective celebrating arguably the most influential British artist of his generation, Richard Hamilton (1922 – 2011), which was due to open in our gallery in early January 2021 but can now be seen online only; it coincides with the publication of a new book by Michael Bracewell that provides a fresh interpretation of an artist whose achievements and legacy remain unmatched.

    Over the next few weeks we will provide an insight into Hamilton’s creative process and his breadth of visual experimentation through a weekly In Focus series exploring the core themes and subjects that underpinned his work for over 60 years. We begin with Defining Pop, which delves into Hamilton’s relationship to pop art, a term he first coined in the mid 1950s. This includes a screening of a documentary made in 1991 with Richard Hamilton and his former student, the musician Bryan Ferry.

    The In Focus series will comprise further film content, a closer look at Michael Bracewell’s new book Modern World: The Art of Richard Hamiltonand the launch of the first episode of our new podcast series. Spotlighted themes include artworks that address political subjects, explore interiors and portraiture, and Hamilton’s fusion of art and technology.

    I first met Richard Hamilton in 1974 and went on to work closely with him for over thirty years. He was relatively neglected from the early 1970s through the late 1980s only emerging as an artist of immense significance in the Postmodernist period (and he himself remained uninterested in the laissez-faire ethos of Postmodernism). His work was far too for cerebral for it ever to prove ‘popular’, with the extraordinary scope of his interests and accomplishments acting as a deterrent to broad acceptance. This never bothered him at all. He had the courage of his convictions and an unshakeable confidence in his own beliefs. He was a perfectionist and refused ever to compromise. He was delightfully disdainful of the art market and quite ready to expound on the venality of dealers and auction houses alike. He never signed a contract with any gallery and insisted on complete control of the occasional sale of his unique works to museums and to a very few collectors who he considered to be friends and supporters.

    Fortunately for me he never saw me as a dealer at all but as a friend and admirer who could facilitate the distribution of his prints to a wider audience. The rules were straightforward. From the moment we started working together in the late 1970s I did exactly what he said at all times and I was happy to do so because I knew that I was acting for a truly exceptional artist and human being. I remained in awe of his intellect. My core speciality has always been the publishing of original prints and I have worked with some exceptional printmakers over the past 50 years, but I have never worked with any artist who could master all available print media to such perfection.

    Over the years I mounted numerous exhibitions by Richard, but never envisaged doing so online. We hope that this will bring you a little solace and pleasure in these days of self-isolation. If you have any questions, we would love to hear from you. We are all working remotely from home and we would be happy to supply you with more information about the artist and his work."  Alan Cristea

    If you would like information about all available Richard Hamilton works, please contact us directly via [email protected].

    Image above: Richard Hamilton at home in Northend, Oxfordshire, c.2006 © 2020 the Estate of Richard Hamilton

    In Focus | Politics: Modern Moral Matters

    International politics, riots, terrorist acts and war, permeated the work of Richard Hamilton throughout his lifetime. He often transformed source material to examine how these conflicts were represented and communicated by the media.

    “Political or moral motivation is hard to handle for an artist.” Richard Hamilton

    In the 1980s Hamilton created a body of work about The Troubles in Northern Ireland. He made three diptych paintings portraying an Irish Republican prisoner - a dirty protester, at the Maze Prison - a parading loyalist Orangeman and a British soldier on patrol. The citizen, 1985, and The orangeman, 1990, illustrated below, are related prints. The citizen, both the painting and the dye-transfer print, are based on stills selected from footage of an Irish Republican prisoner, on hunger strike and dirty protest in the H block. Hamilton was struck by his resemblance to images of Christian martyrs. Drawing parallels with classic history painting, the depiction of the protester's suffering and the appearance of his dishevelled hair and beard make comparisons to the subject of Jesus Christ unavoidable. The title The citizen is taken from an episode of James Joyce's Ulysses, where the same portrait appears in Hamilton's Finn McCool, 1983. Cristea explains, "Hamilton's interest in the political situation in Ireland and his life-long engagement with Joyce merge as Raymond Pius McCartney, an IRA dirty protester in the Maze prison is transmogrified into Joyce's mythical Finn McCool, in Hamilton's illustration to the Cyclops episode of Ulysses."

    In 2008 Hamilton created a two-faced medal depicting former prime minister Tony Blair on one side and his then press secretary, Alistair Campbell, on the reverse. Entitled Medal of Dishonour, 2008, the cast bronze edition was commissioned for an exhibition at the British Museum featuring medals that condemn, rather than celebrate, their subjects. The medal refers to the investigation of Blair and Campbell as part of The Hutton Inquiry, a judicial inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of a former UN weapons inspector.

    Decades earlier Hamilton had created a portrait of Leader of the Labour Party, Hugh Gaitskell, using an enlarged newspaper photograph of Gaitskell and cut out imagery of fictional monsters from the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. Hamilton, an advocate of nuclear disarmament, made the work as a critique of Gaitskell's support of a nuclear deterrent. He produced a painting and several sketches of the subject, before revisiting it in 1982 to make the final illustrated print, Hugh Gaitskell as a Famous Monster of Filmland (1963), a combination of collotype and screenprint.

    Hamilton's interest in creating multiple manifestations of the same compelling image form part of his investigation into the often oversimplified and distorted montages of political events as presented by television and in the press. This exploration of imagery is an important part of Kent State, 1970, a print made by Hamilton after watching reports of a student protester shot by police at Kent State University, Ohio, in 1970.

    Click below to read an extract, with additional imagery, from Michael Bracewell's book Modern World: The Art of Richard Hamilton, that explores the artistic and technical processes used by Hamilton to make Kent State.

    If you would like information about all available Richard Hamilton works, please contact us directly via [email protected].

    In Focus | Defining Pop

    Film: This is Tomorrow


    Film: This is Tomorrow

    This is Tomorrow, a documentary made in 1991, explores the work of Richard Hamilton and his former student, the musician Bryan Ferry. Interviews with both Hamilton and Ferry are seen alongside contributions from musician Paul McCartney, the late author J.G Ballard and artists Tim Head and Mark Lancaster, who were also students of Hamilton.

    Originally broadcast thirty years ago on  Channel 4, This is Tomorrow was directed by Mark James, produced by Andrea Cornes and camera by Chris Morphet www.widestreamfilms.com

    "Pop Art is Popular (designed for a mass audience), Transient (short-term solution), Expendable (easily forgotten), Low Cost, Mass Produced, Young (aimed at youth), Wicked, Sexy, Gimmicky, Glamorous, Big Business." Richard Hamilton

    Richard Hamilton gave birth to the term in 1956 and defined it as above in a now famous letter sent to architects Peter and Alison Smithson in January 1957.

    Interior, 1964 - 1965, is an early example of Hamilton's use of screenprint. The print belongs to a group of works based on a film still, discovered by chance, advertising Douglas Sirk's film Shockproof, 1949. Hamilton's early interiors relied heavily on collaging ready-made material from magazines. Hamilton stated, "Every man-made interior space has its own interest; banal or beautiful, exquisite or sordid each says a lot about its owner and something about humanity in general. They can be dreary or warm and touching, on occasion, inspiring; all tell a story and the narrative can be enthralling; some even give us a little lesson in art appreciation."

    I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, 1967, is derived from a 1942 film still of Bing Crosby. Using a photographic transfer to make the screenprint, Hamilton was fascinated by the allusive power of the camera's imagery and made a series of images that reversed colour from positive to negative, and back again, following the Duchampian idea that everything has an opposite. My Marilyn, 1965, is a print derived from photographs of the actress Marilyn Monroe which were published shortly after her death. Monroe demanded that the results of all photographic sessions be submitted to her for vetting. In this image she ticked only one photo as acceptable

    Hamilton's Braun-inspired work was exemplified in Toaster, 1967, his depiction of a home appliance with accompanying text adapted from Braun advertising brochures. Hamilton commented: "The Marilyn print has it's concomitant in Toaster. It is an early example of the readiness of the modern print to move around, to mix the media: offset litho, screenprint, and in this case collage, not a print medium at all." The theme of the toaster remained with Hamilton throughout his life and in 2008 he made 14 unique three-dimensional versions of the subject.

    Fashion-plate, 1969-1970, is related to a group of works entitled Cosmetic Studies featuring photographs of models in fashion magazines. These were explorations towards an unrealised life-size painting of a full-length figure. Using imagery of photographic studio equipment to frame the model's portrait, Hamilton built up collage elements and pochoir (stencilling). Final handmade marks were applied using actual cosmetics.

    A Little Bit of Roy Lichtenstein for…, 1964, is an enlarged detail of a screenprinted poster for a Roy Lichtenstein exhibition. Hamilton, an admirer of the American artist, made several negatives of details from the image, enlarging one of them into a screenprint. The peardrop shape, top right, is a tear from the eye of a crying girl; the four parallel strokes, bottom right, are shading on the nose.

    The late art critic David Sylvester described Hamilton's preoccupation with mass culture as only one aspect of his obsession with the modern - modern living, modern technology, modern equipment, modern communications, modern materials, modern processes and modern attitudes. Hamilton wanted to relate to everything that was going on in the world around him.

    Despite his label as the grandfather or founder of Pop Art, a description the artist often rejected, Hamilton set no limits on subject matter, nor stylistic language of expression. For him, the image was always more important than the rationale of its execution.

    If you would like information about all available Richard Hamilton works, please contact us directly via [email protected].

    New Book

    Modern World: The Art of Richard Hamilton

    Modern World: The Art of Richard Hamilton presents a concise introduction to this deeply complex artist. Written from a personal perspective, and covering the full scope of Hamilton’s practice, Michael Bracewell discusses the artist’s all-embracing work in relation to the music, film, and popular culture of the day in a rich new interpretation of his art and ideas.

    £25 plus free shipping within the UK, available online via Art / Books. Click here to order the book.  

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