Flower-piece B – cyan separation, like Flower-piece B (P12106) and Flower-piece B – crayon study (P12107), belongs to a series of prints Hamilton made from three paintings, Flower-piece I, 1971-4, Flower-piece II, 1973 and Flower-piece III, 1973-4, each based on one of three laminated three-dimensional postcards (Flower-piece postcards a–c, 1971-3, Collection Bombelli, Cadaqués). In his translation of postcard to painting, the artist tampered with the original image, adding a toilet roll to the foreground of one (Flower-piece I), a turd to the foreground of another (Flower-piece II) and abstracting the third into washes of colour (Flower-piece III). Hamilton had previously introduced a toilet roll to the cliché of a romantic landscape in his painting Soft pink landscape, 1971-2 (Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest; see P07447 for a 1980 print based on this painting), where he was motivated by the association of ‘girls and toilet paper – glamour and shit’ (the artist quoted in Collected Words, p.100). In Flower-piece I the toilet roll is painted realistically so that it appears a solid presence, next to flowers and fruit painted with very thinned-down oils on a white canvas, suggestive of the texture of watercolour. On his treatment of flowers, Hamilton wrote:
Nothing is more likely to stimulate my interest in a new subject than to notice a major pictorial genre that I have left unexplored ... flowery allure is an irrelevant anachronism in the context of cultural ideas in our period. It takes perversity and a touch of irony to make it tolerable ... [my] compulsion to defile a sentimental cliché was perhaps, though unconscious initially, a conformity with a well-established tradition in the flower-piece – the convention of placing, often lower right a memento mori: an insect, a crab, a skull – some sinister motif which suggests that life is not all prettiness and fragrance ... the flower-piece genre should be, above all, about colour. Using paint to create colour effects, in this sense, is something that I have rarely found worthwhile, here it was to be the raison d’être.
(Quoted in Collected Words, p.100.)
As the use of colour in depicting flowers could be relatively arbitrary, the subject offered Hamilton an ideal motif for a technical exploration of the difficulties of printing colour using different processes. Having experimented with the possibilities of etching and collotype in the Trichromatic flower-pieces, 1973-4 and Flower-piece A, 1974, in 1975 Hamilton took Flower-piece B to the workshop of master-printer Ken Tyler in Bedford Village, New York State, to try his luck with lithography. Tyler had invited him to work on any project he chose. Hamilton had not previously been happy with the results he had achieved in the medium but was hopeful of changing this.
Flower-piece B – cyan separation is a by-product of Flower-piece B – crayon study, a lithograph made using four stones: three colours and black. To make a printable mark onto a lithography stone the artist must either draw directly onto the stone with a stick of black grease, or he may use a brush to apply a wash effect using a suspension of grease in water. Hamilton made Flower-piece B – crayon study using the former method. He commented: ‘Stones drawn with crayon are easier to work than wash drawings. To test this assumption a print study was made with four crayon drawn stones.’ (Quoted in Lullin, p.134.) He concluded that it was indeed relatively easy to achieve a satisfactory result using this method. He was particularly pleased with his drawing on the cyan stone and Tyler suggested that he publish a small edition of the cyan separation for this image, printed alone, but in black. As a poetic coincidence for a picture of flowers, the printer’s term for dark blue ‘cyan’ comes from the Greek word for cornflower.
Flower-piece B – cyan separation is a lithograph on Arches Cover mould-made paper. It was produced in an edition of twenty-three plus ten artist’s proofs. Tate’s copy is number VIII/X and is signed and numbered by the artist in graphite below the image. Tyler’s blind stamp is on the lower right corner and his workshop number has been inscribed in graphite on the verso, lower left corner: RH75-202.
Etienne Lullin, Richard Hamilton: Prints and Multiples 1939-2002, exhibition catalogue, Kunstmuseum Winterthur and Yale Center for British Art, New Haven 2003, pp.126-37, reproduced p.135 in colour.
Richard Hamilton: Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, MACBA Barcelona and Ludwig Museum, Cologne 2003, pp. 65-6, 70-1, 73.
Richard Hamilton: Collected Words 1953-1982, London and New York, 1982, pp.100-103.