Summary

Like Hamilton’s later prints, A dedicated follower of fashion, 1980 (Tate P07448) and The marriage, 1998 (P78290), the painting Interior II was developed from a discarded photograph the artist discovered by chance. Hamilton was teaching art at Newcastle Polytechnic when he found a still from the film Shockproof (1949, director Douglas Sirk, screenplay by Samuel Fuller) lying on a classroom floor. The 1948 photograph became the generator for a series of works playing on the representation of an interior space. Hamilton was struck by the carefully arranged composition of the still, photographed in a specially constructed set. He explained:

Everything in the photograph converged on a girl in a ‘new look’ coat who stared out slightly to right of camera. A very wide-angle lens must have been used because the perspective seemed distorted; but the disquiet of the scene was due to two other factors. It was a film set, not a real room, so wall surfaces were not explicitly conjoined; and the lighting came from several different sources. Since the scale of the room had not become unreasonably enlarged, as one might expect from the use of a wide-angle lens, it could be assumed that false perspective had been introduced to counteract its effect – yet the foreground remained emphatically close and the recession extreme. All this contributed more to the foreboding atmosphere than the casually observed body lying on the floor, partially concealed by a desk. I made three collaged studies and two paintings based on this image of an interior – ominous, provocative, ambiguous; a confrontation with which the spectator is familiar yet not at ease.

(Collected Words, p.61.)


Hamilton initiated Interior II as he completed Interior I (Erna and Curt Burgauer Collection). He had laid down the background of Interior I and required the image of the image of the actress Patricia Knight (1915-2004) as she appeared in the film still to complete it. He had already created a screenprint of Patricia Knight taken directly from the still, minus the end of one shoe and with the outline of a table edge cutting into her skirt. For the paintings, the printer Christopher Prater (1924-96) of Kelpra Studio, London prepared a photo silkscreen filling in the end of her shoe. In both paintings a new object covers the affected area of Knight’s skirt. Prater transferred the newsprint onto the surface of the coloured canvas of Interior I and the primed white canvas of Interior II before Hamilton decided how to compose the rest of the painting around her. In the event, the figure was placed in positions fairly similar to the place occupied in the still; in Interior I she is slightly further centre and in Interior II she has been shifted further back and to the left.

Interior I and II are Hamilton’s first treatment of an interior scene since his famous collage Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?(Kunsthalle Tübingen) created in 1956. The technique of collage is central to these new interiors. Each painting shows a room superficially similar in structure to that created for the film still. Hamilton brought a full-length curtain covering a window on the left side of the still into the foreground of his paintings where it appears to open on the space depicted in the composition. In Interior II, the space behind the actress leading to another room has been retained, although the room is different. Hamilton derived it from a colour photograph of the studio of the artist and musician Larry Rivers (1923-2002) that he came across in Esquire. A small blue monochrome canvas propped against the wall in this space refers to the modernist artist Yves Klein (1928-62). A section of wall with a decorative column of square indentations in the plaster that appears next to the curtain in the still has been transferred to the right side of the painting in Interior II. It is next to a sepia photographic image of an interior half obscured by white paint. The perspectival vanishing points of the architectural features meet invisibly at a plug socket painted at the bottom of a lilac coloured wall in the centre of the image. Above this, a photograph of a television screen shows an image from footage of the assassination of John F. Kennedy on 22 November 1963 in Dallas Texas. The television and a standing lamp next to it are printed onto a section of canvas resembling a painting within the painting. In the bottom right corner of the image, realistically painted tiles anchor the painting. On these, where a rug might be, a rectangle of brightly coloured abstract paint refers to the process of painting as representation. In front of Knight, who stands, apparently transfixed by something she can see beyond the viewer, the back of a Charles and Ray Eames ‘La Fonda’ chair, constructed in relief, obscures a portion of the actress’s skirt. The incorporation of elements that stick out of the painting recalls the Cubist practice of mixing real objects with images of them on a single canvas and further dislocates readings of the painting’s representation of interior space.


Further reading:
Richard Hamilton, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London and Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 1992, p.158, reproduced p.87 (plate 30) in colour and p.158.
Richard Hamilton: Exteriors, Interiors, Objects, People, exhibition catalogue, Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover and IVAM, Centre Julio Gonzalez, Valencia 1990, pp.46, 50-3, reproduced p.53 in colour.
Richard Hamilton: Collected Words 1953-1982, London and New York, 1982, pp.61-3 and 90, reproduced p.63 in colour.

Elizabeth Manchester
September 2007