Richard Hamilton (artist)

From Academic Kids

Richard Hamilton (born April 24 1922) is a British painter and collage artist. His 1956 collage titled "Just What Is It that Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?", produced for the "This is Tomorrow" exhibition of the Independent Group in London, is considered by some critics and historians to be the first work of Pop Art.

Born into a working class family Richard Hamilton grew up in the Pimlico area of London. Having left school with no formal qualifiactions Hamilton got work as an apprentice working at an electrical components firm. Here he discovered an ability for draughtsmanship and began to do painting at evening classes at St. Martin's School of Art which eventually lead to his entry into the Royal Academy Schools. After spending the war working as a technical draftsman he re-enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools but was later expelled. After two years at the Slade School of Art Richard Hamilton began exhibiting at the ICA where he also produced posters and leaflets and teaching at the Central School of Art and Design where he became a lifelong friend with Eduardo Paolozzi. Hamilton and Paolozzi formed the Independent Group based at the ICA.

In 1952 through Roland Penrose who Hamilton had met at the ICA he was intoduced to the 'Green Box' notes of Marcel Duchamp. It was also through Penrose that Hamilton met Victor Passmore who gave him a teaching post based in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne which lasted to 1966. The post afforded Hamilton the time to further his research on Duchamp which resulted in the publication of a typographic version of Duchamp's 'Green Box' in 1960. Hamilton's 1955 exhibition of paintings at the Hanover Gallery were all in some form a homage to Duchamp. In the same year Hamilton organised the exhibition 'Man Machine Motion' at the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle. Designed to look more like an advertising display than a conventional art exhibit the show prefigured Hamilton's contribution to This is Tomorrow the following year.

The success of This is Tomorrow secured Hamilton further teaching assignments inparticular at the Royal College of Art from 1957-61 where he promoted David Hockney and Peter Blake. During this period Hamilton was also very active in CND. In the early 1960s he received a grant from the Arts Council to investigate the condition of the Kurt Schwitters 'Mertzbarn' in Cumbria. The research eventually resulted in Hamilton organising the preservation of the work by relocating it to the Hatton Gallery. In 1962 his first wife Terry was killed in a car crash and in part to recover from this he travelled for the first to America where as well as meeting other leading Pop artist he was befriended by Marcel Duchamp. Arising from this Hamilton curated the first and to date only British retrospective of Duchamp's work which also required Hamilton to make copies of The Bride Stripped Bare of Her Batchelors. Even and other glass works too fragile to travel. The exhibition was shown at the Tate Gallery in 1966.

From the mid-sixties Hamilton was represented by Robert Fraser at the Invicta Gallery and even produced a series of prints 'Swingeing London' based on Fraser's arrest with Mick Jagger for possesion of drugs. This association with the 1960s Pop Music scene continued as Hamilton became friends with Paul McCartney resulting in him producing the collage for the inside of the 'White Album'. Hamilton had also been the teacher of Bryan Ferry and Nick de Ville in Newcastle a few years before and his influence can be found in the visual styling and approach of Roxy Music

During the 1970s Richard Hamilton enjoyed international acclaim with a number of major exhibitions being organised of his work. Hamilton had found a new companion in the painter Rita Donnagh and together they set about converting North End a farm in the Oxfordshire countryside into a home and studios. Hamilton realised a series of projects that blurred the boundaries between artwork and product design including a painting that incorporated a state-of-the-art radio receiver and the casing of a Diab Computer. In 1977-8 Hamilton undertook a series of collaborations with the artist Dieter Roth that also blurred the definitions of the artist as sole author of there work.

From the late 1940s Richard Hamilton has been engaged with a project to produce a suite of illustrations for James Joyce's 'Ulysses'. Associated with this in 1981 began work on a trilogy of paintings based on the conflicts in Northern Ireland after watching a television documentary about the protest organised by IRA prisoners in Longcech Prison - more popularly known as 'The Maze'. 'The Citizen' 1981-3 shows a dirty protester with long hair and a beard stylised in a way to make him appear similar to a Christian Martyr. 'The Subject' 1988-9 shows an Orangeman, a member of the order dedicated to defend Unionism in Northern Ireland. 'The State' 1993 shows a British soldier on a solitary patrole on a street. Critical responses to the works have been divided with those both on the political left and right accusing Hamilton of naďveté.

Hamilton's output of new work since 1993 has been limited. In 1992 the Tate Gallery in London organised a major retrospective of Hamilton's career with an accompanying catalogue. which provides the most comprehensive review of his career. In 1993 Hamilton represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale and was awarded the Golden Lion.

The Tate Gallery now has a comprehensive collection of Hamilton's work from across his Hamilton (Künstler)


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