Interior with monochromes is a print made from a collage, showing a deconstructed view of an interior. On a sheet of white paper, Hamilton lined up three black and white photographs of sections of different rooms so that the line where the wall meets the ceiling is continuous from one crop to the next. The photographs take the spectator’s eye from floor to ceiling in three shots. These are: a view of a sofa, including a section of floor, in front of a wall, with only a tiny segment of ceiling included; part of an open door, seen above a sliver of floor and below a lightbulb hanging from a black electric cord; a closer view of the naked bulb hanging from a white cord in front of the intersection of two walls and the ceiling. The visual journey upwards is emphasised by the presence of a wooden ladder casually propped against the wall in the first photograph. In front of this image Hamilton collaged a coloured picture of Gerrit Rietveld’s Rood Blauwe Stoel (Red/Blue Chair) of 1918. The artist cut this out from a set of postcards that he also used to make his subsequent print, Putting on de Stijl, 1979. The same chair appears in his print Instant Painting, 1980. On the coffee table in the photograph behind the red chair a bottle of Beefeater Gin and two bottles of Schweppes tonic make reference to a ritual personal to the artist. According to Etienne Lullin, the author of Hamilton’s catalogue raisonné: ‘Gin and tonic is Richard Hamilton’s favourite drink ... In addition, gin and tonic was also part of the almost ritual handing over of the print’s proof: after the whole edition had been printed and signed, Hamilton would mix gin and tonics, light up a cigar and then ceremoniously hand over the printer’s proof(s).’ (Quoted in Lullin, p.150.)
Behind the sofa, an editioned painting by Joseph Beuys (1921-86) hangs on the wall. It is Lampe Loch rot (1976-9), a composition of three back discs in a vertical line decreasing in size as the eye travels downwards. These are offset by a black ellipse screenprinted onto the wall in the third photograph on a line nearly horizontal with the upper edge of Beuys’s print. A fourth photograph, of an area of grey textured wall, underlays part of the second and third image, beginning at the edge of the door lintel cropped by the lower edge of the second photograph and ending at the intersection of two walls shown in the third photograph. Hamilton drew the lower part of the door onto his collage, filling in an area of darkness under the black rectangle of the space onto which the door opens. A square of vivid blue overlapping the third and fourth photographs alludes to the artist Yves Klein (1928-62). A square of similar dimensions, rotated sideways and coloured orange, is set between the lower corners of the third and fourth photographs, balancing the composition.
Collaged depictions of interiors are a recurring theme in Hamilton’s oeuvre, begun in 1956 with his most famous image, Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?(Kunsthalle Tübingen and Tate P20271), and continued through the 1960s (T00912 and P04250) to the present (P78919 and P20287). In the late 1970s, he produced almost exclusively interiors. He has commented:
In bringing together works that could reasonably be labelled ‘Interior’ I found that art was as often the subject as that they were about rooms. I happened to use part of a colour supplement feature for Interior I ... Its complement Interior II also contains references to art, including a patch of blue to signify an Yves Klein monochrome, a trick which recurs in Interior with monochromes ... Any interior is a set of anachronisms, a museum, with the lingering residues of decorative styles that an inhabited space collects. Banal or beautiful, exquisite or sordid, each says a lot about its owner and something about humanity in general. They can be dreary or warm and touching, on occasion, inspiring; all tell a story and the narrative can be enthralling; some even give us a little lesson in art appreciation.
(Quoted in Collected Words, p.62.)
While Hamilton’s earlier collages were created using material sourced from magazines and postcards, during the 1970s the artist developed the habit of photographing fragments of interiors without any specific purpose in mind. Some of these, like the photographs used in this print, found their way into studies. Later, as in such images as A mirrorical return, 1999 (P78289) and The annunciation, 2005 (P20287), Hamilton took photographs of interiors specifically for the creation of paintings and digital collage.
Interior with monochromes was printed by the artist and Heinz Häfner at Eberhard Schreiber, Stuttgart using collotype in six colours on Ivorex paper. It was subsequently screenprinted by the artist and Frank Kicherer, Stuttgart in five colours. The edition numbers ninety-six plus ten artist’s proofs; Tate’s copy is the fourteenth in the edition. Hamilton signed and numbered each copy in pencil. The edition was published by Waddington Graphics, London.
Etienne Lullin, Richard Hamilton: Prints and Multiples 1939-2002, exhibition catalogue, Kunstmuseum Winterthur and Yale Center for British Art, New Haven 2003, pp.150-1, reproduced p.151 in colour.
Richard Hamilton: Prints 1939-83, Stuttgart and London 1984, p.75, reproduced p.75 in colour.
Richard Hamilton: Collected Words 1953-1982, London and New York, 1982, pp.61-3.