Richard Hamilton in his studio, 1956

Richard Hamilton/ Richard Hamilton

United Kingdom 1922 - 2011

Pop Art, Painting, Collage

Richard Hamilton
Richard Hamilton
Male
United Kingdom
1922

Famous for his celebrated collages which set the stage for the last great movement in art history, Richard Hamilton was an English painter artist known as one of the earliest proponents of Pop art. Through his iconic pieces, this artist explored the relationship between fine art, product design and popular culture despite the obvious differences separating the three worlds. By doing so, Hamilton was able to set the aims and ideals for a future movement we now call Pop art – as a matter of fact, it was a lollipop from one of his early works that furnished the movement with its iconic title. Ultimately, Richard ‘s name may not have the same ring nor bang as Andy Warhol, but Hamilton was the one who laid down the groundwork for Pop art.

London city has a large exhibition number since there's a gallery everywhere you turn
Richard Hamilton – Interior, 1965 – Image via pinterest.com

A Lucky Break

Richard Hamilton was born in Pimlico, a small area within central London in the City of Westminster. Despite the fact he left school with no formal qualifications under his belt, the young artist managed to find an employment opportunity rather swiftly. Hamilton started working as an apprentice at an electrical components firm. Here, Richard discovered a surprising ability for draughtsmanship and it was this revelation that led him to start painting at evening classes at Saint Martin’s School of Art. Eventually, Hamilton believed he found his true calling and started attending classes at the Royal Academy Schools. His development was put on hold as the World War II broke out. After the war came to a halt, Richard re-enrolled at the Royal Academy. However, he got expelled on grounds of not profiting from the instruction – troubled but not dishearted, Hamilton went to Slade School of Art in London. It was at this university that the young painter found his first success as Richard was finally given an opportunity to exhibit his work. His first show was held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts where Hamilton presented his posters and leaflets[1].

London gallery held an exhibition where the work of the British group was presented
Richard Hamilton – Stage Proof 18, 1972 – Image via tate.org.uk

The Rise to the Top

The years of the 50s were crucial to Hamilton’s career as a painter. It was during this time that the young artist was able to expand his skill set and the overall understanding of art. Richard also started to work within the collage medium. The London university experience gave him an opportunity to study the art of Marcel Duchamp, which also had a massive impact on Richard’s early art. In 1956, Hamilton created his arguably greatest piece ever[2]. It was titled with a long name Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? and it was originally produced for the catalog of This Is Tomorrow. The brilliant collage depicts a muscle-man provocatively holding a Tootsie Pop and a woman with bare breasts wearing a lampshade hat, surrounded by various emblems of 1950s affluence,such as a vacuum cleaner to a large canned ham. Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? is widely acknowledged as the first genuine piece of Pop Art and it defined the ground for the whole international movement. The success of This Is Tomorrow project ultimately secured Hamilton’s teaching assignments, crowned with a job position at the Royal College of Art. Here, Richard promoted David Hockney‘s and Peter Blake‘s early careers as well.

Amongst his many contributions to Pop art, Hamilton introduced the idea of the artist as an active consumer and contributor to mass culture

Contact the British group to figure out which gallery the group will choose next
Richard Hamilton – Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing, 1956 (detail) – Image via ultravie.co.uk

Later Years

In 1962 his first wife Terry was killed in a car accident and Richard traveled to the United States for a retrospective of the works of Marcel Duchamp at Pasadena Museum as a way to get back on his feet emotionally[3]. Here he befriended many colleagues, including the legendary avant-garde artist himself. During the 1970s, Richard Hamilton enjoyed international recognition with a number of major exhibitions of his work being arranged, praising him as the father of UK’s Pop art. Over time, Hamilton had found a new companion in painter Rita Donagh. Together they organized numerous projects as Richard was starting to let the course of Pop art be dictated by other artists such as Warhol. He did manage to blur the lines between artwork and product design, making sure that his legacy will forever be intact. Starting with the late 1970s and the following decades of his life, Hamilton’s activity was concentrated largely on investigations of printmaking processes, often in unusual and complex combinations with his earlier techniques. He also worked on quite a large number of politically fueled pieces. Richard Hamilton died on the 13th of September during the year of 2011, at the age of 89[4]. Luckily, the large exhibition number did not slow down with the end of his life – Hamilton’s work was the topic of numerous British museum and gallery institutions, especially in London where a retrospective show of Richard’s works was and still is a common occurrence.

For Hamilton, Pop art was not just another movement in art history – it was a true way of life

London's main gallery was a hit with its exhibition
Richard Hamilton – I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, 1967 – Image via tate.org.uk

Appreciating Richard Hamilton

This probably comes as no surprise, but speaking about Hamilton’s artistic legacy may prove to be an extremely prolongated discussion. He set the stage for the birth of England’ Pop art scene. His examination of popular media is one of the greatest takes on the topic 20th century has to offer. He also enjoyed some of the greatest acceptance by both the public and the art circles ever seen. The list of Richards achievements can go on for quite a while. Shorty put, Hamilton should be praised for developing his relationship between fine art, product design and popular culture, setting up such a fine triangle of opposite worlds and bringing them together despite their differences. Ultimately, Richard broke down the hierarchies of artistic value and by doing so, cemented his name as one of the most important individuals of modern art history.

This artist is represented by Gagosian Park & 75 New York, Gagosian West 24th Street New York, Gagosian Beverly Hills, Gagosian Britannia Street London and Gagosian West 21st Street New York.

References:

  1. Foster, H., Richard Hamilton (October Files), The MIT Press, 2010
  2. Godfrey, M., Richard Hamilton, Tate, 2015
  3. Wilson, A., Richard Hamilton: Swingeing London 67, Tate, 2015
  4. Grimes, W., Richard Hamilton, British Painter and a Creator of Pop Art, Dies at 89, The New York Times, September, 2011

Featured image: Richard Hamilton – Photo of the artist – Image via sneakymag.com
All images used for illustrative purposes only.

YearName of the exhibitionMuseum/GallerySolo/Group
2016I still believe in miraclesInverleith House. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Edinburgh, SchottlandGroup
2016Richard Hamilton - CadaquésDavid Zwirner Gallery, LondonSolo
2016Embracing the Contemporary: The Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Collection Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PAGroup
2016Leuchte!Weserburg | Museum für moderne Kunst, BremenGroup
2016International PopPhiladelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PAGroup
2015Changing PerspectivesLullin + Ferrari, ZürichGroup
2015International Pop Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TXGroup
2015I Got Rhythm. Kunst und Jazz seit 1920Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, StuttgartGroup
2014Richard HamiltonMuseo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, MadridSolo
2014Richard Hamilton: Word and Image. Prints 1963-2007 Alan Cristea Gallery, LondonSolo
2014Richard Hamilton - Final weeksTate St. Ives, St. Ives, CornwallSolo
2014Richard HamiltonTate Modern, LondonSolo
2014Richard Hamilton At IcaInstitute of Contemporary Arts, LondonSolo
2014under cover II Galerie Barbara Wien, BerlinGroup
2014De Picasso à Jasper Johns, l'atelier d'Aldo Crommelynck Musee Soulages, RodezGroup
2014The Grant and Peggy Reuber Collection of International Works on PaperMcIntosh Gallery, London, ONGroup
2012Made In London : Prints By Richard Hamilton, British Pionner Of Pop ArtKawamura Memorial Museum of Art, Sakura, ChibaSolo
2012Richard HamiltonKunstmuseum Winterthur, WinterthurSolo
2011Richard Hamilton: Pop Art Pioneer, 1922-2011The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MNSolo
2011Richard Hamilton - Photographies de la Terre et de la Mer / Photographies of the Land Aktinos Gallery, ParisSolo
2010Crash, Homage to JG BallardBritannia Street, LondonGroup
2009Go FigureMadison Avenue, NYGroup
2009Richard Hamilton: Toaster deluxeDavies Street, LondonSolo
2008Martian Museum of Terrestrial ArtBarbican, London, UKGroup
2008For the Spirit: From the UBS Art CollectionMori Art Museum, Tokyo, JapanGroup
2007The Secret PublicInstitute of Contemporary Arts, London, UKGroup
2007Pop art is...Britannia Street, LondonGroup
2007Rock 'N' Roll Vol ISorlandet Art Museum, Kristiansand, NorwayGroup
2006Sound ZeroKunst Meran, Meran, ItalyGroup
2005Works on paperBeverly HillsGroup
2005Looking at WordsAndrea Rosen Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2005Summer of Love Art of the Psychedelic EraTate Liverpool, Liverpool, UKGroup
2004DrawingsHeddon Street, LondonGroup
2004Funny Cuts: Cartoons and Comics in der zeitgenossische KunstStaatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart, GermanyGroup
2004Multiple StrategiesCincinnati Contempoerary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OHGroup
2003In Perspective: Retrospective of Drawings and PaintingsMACBA, Barcelona, Spain Solo
2003Richard Hamilton: ProductsHeddon Street, LondonSolo
2002Imaging UlyssesIrish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland Solo
2002Print RetrospectiveKunstmuseum Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland Solo
2001Richard HamiltonAlan Cristea Gallery, London, UK Solo
2001Prints 1968-1998Charles Cowles Gallery, New York, NY Solo
1998New technology and PrintmakingAlan Cristea Gallery, London, UK Solo
1992A Print RetrospectiveWaddington Graphics, London, UK Solo
1990Richard HamiltonStudio Marconi, Milan, Italy Solo
1989Richard HamiltonPaul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NY Solo
1986Richard HamiltonNational Gallery of Canada, Toronto, Canada Solo
1986Richard HamiltonPhiladelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA Solo
1986Richard HamiltonLos Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, CA Solo
1985Richard HamiltonYale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT Solo
1984Richard HamiltonNational Museum, Stockholm, Sweden Solo
1983Richard HamiltonNishimura Gallery, Tokyo, Japan Solo
1982Richard HamiltonWaddington Graphics, London, UK Solo
1978Richard HamiltonThe Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada Solo
1977Richard HamiltonThe Tate Gallery, London, UK Solo
1974Richard HamiltonScottish Arts Council, Edinburgh, Scotland Solo
1972Richard HamiltonInstitute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK Solo
1971Richard HamiltonStudio Marconi, Milan, Italy Solo
1971Richard HamiltonCastelli Graphics, New York, NY Solo
1970Richard HamiltonThe National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada Solo
1950Richard HamiltonGimpel Fils, London, UKGroup