A dedicated follower of fashion is an image combining photographic and drawn elements in a seamless whole. It shows a young man wearing a suit, standing in a hallway and talking on the phone. The white telephone sits on a small round table behind a chair with a curved back. Above the chair and table a picture showing the stylised letters of the word ‘ART’ hangs on the wall. This is a black and white representation of an image created by American Pop artist Robert Indiana (born 1928) in the early 1970s. The young man’s suit is double-breasted, reminiscent of the suits worn by the Beatles in some of their earliest stage performances during the 1960s. Hamilton developed his print from a photograph taken in the late 1960s. He recounted:
In 1969, while at a large photographic company in Hamburg, I idly plucked a naïve little photograph from a wastepaper basket. It showed a young man in a Beatles jacket self-consciously making a telephone call. On the back were a name, address and telephone number. It occurred to me that it had been sent, unsolicited, in the hope of getting a modelling job. I used the figure and changed the ambience.
(Quoted in Prints 1939-83, p.79.)
Hamilton imagined that the young man had been photographed by a friend in a corridor by the front door of an apartment (Lullin, p.160). He created a study for the print, using collage, pencil, acrylic, ink and wash (A dedicated follower of fashion – study, 1980, private collection), adding two items of furniture to his composition. The table and chair normally stand in a corner on the first floor of Hamilton’s home at Northend. In reality, the table is much smaller than the chair but the artist made them appear as though they belong together and fit logically into the perspective of the image. Twenty-five years after he made the print A dedicated follower of fashion Hamilton used a photograph of the table and chair again for his print Chiara and chair, 2005 (P78919). Hamilton placed Indiana’s framed screenprint on the wall of the interior shown in A dedicated follower of fashion because he had seen it frequently in apartments in Germany, so it seemed an appropriate accompaniment to the young German would-be model. He based his copy of Indiana’s image on either The American Art, 1970 or The Bowery Art, 1971 (Lullin, p.160).
In his preparatory study for A dedicated follower of fashion, Hamilton had blended the separation between the photographic elements and the markings made by hand. In the print, compositional unity results from a skilful blending of print techniques on a single plate. Hamilton took the study to the Watford School of Printing, where John Wilson made a copper gravure plate suitable for creating an etching. The artist then took this to the workshop of Aldo Crommelynck in Paris, the master etcher with whom he had been working since 1973, when he created Picassos’s meninas (P07659). In the print, the upper part of the young man – his head, torso and arms – and the telephone have retained their photographic quality as they were printed by photogravure. The young man’s legs and feet are clearly hand-drawn, like the outlines of the furniture, resulting in a potentially confusing shift in visual language. The body of the Indiana print on the wall and the shading of the furniture and hallway were created by step-bite aquatint, while the outlines of the print, the chair and table and the door frame behind the young man were scratched with a burin on the gravure plate. The image title is derived from a pop song by the British Pop group, The Kinks, called Dedicated Follower of Fashion and released as a single late in 1965. The song is about a shopper who visits all the boutiques in London in search of the latest clothes and accessories. The lyrics feature the passage: ‘So he’s got to buy the best ‘cause he’s a dedicated follower of fashion’ (quoted in Lullin, p.160). Like the shopper in The Kinks’ song, the subject of Hamilton’s print is clearly a follower of fashion because his jacket is immediately recognisable as being ‘a Beatles jacket’, in other words emulating the style of Pop stars. Found photographs of celebrities featured several times in Hamilton’s work during the 1960s and 1970s. A film still of the actress Patricia Knight was the starting point for a group of images of interiors, including the painting Interior II, 1964 (T00912) and the print Interior, 1964-5 (P04250). Hamilton uses images from magazines and newspapers – showing people and elements of a familiar contemporary world – as the material for his formal reflections on style and representation.
A dedicated follower of fashion was produced in an edition of one hundred plus ten artist’s proofs, of which Tate’s copy is the fifty-seventh. The edition was published by Waddington Graphics. Four stage proofs were created in the process of resolving the image which was eventually printed using photogravure, etching, open-bite, lift-ground and step-bite aquatint.
When Hamilton plucked the photograph that generated A dedicated follower of fashion from the wastepaper basket in the office of Creative Colour in Hamburg, he also picked up a wedding photograph of a Japanese couple in traditional dress. In 1998 he used this image to create The marriage (P78290).
Etienne Lullin, Richard Hamilton: Prints and Multiples 1939-2002, exhibition catalogue, Kunstmuseum Winterthur and Yale Center for British Art, New Haven 2003, pp.160-1, reproduced p.161 in colour.
Richard Hamilton: Prints 1939-83, Stuttgart and London 1984, p.79, reproduced p.79.