Richard Hamilton

Out and up


Not on display
Richard Hamilton 1922–2011
Watercolour on paper
Unconfirmed: 344 x 486 mm
frame: 503 x 632 x 40 mm
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of tax and allocated to the Tate Gallery 1992


Out and Up is one of a group of studies for Hamilton's painting Super-Ex-Position, 1953-4, which Hamilton eventually destroyed, as it was too large for him to store. The artist has records of the existence of four unique studies on paper for Super-Ex-Position, of which Out and Up is the largest. All these works, like the finished painting, are concerned with movement from an interior through a doorway to the space outside.

This watercolour reflects a number of Hamilton's preoccupations during his student years at the Slade School of Art (1948-51). His primary source books at the time were a text on growth processes in nature, On Growth and Form by D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1913, republished 1942) and Siegfried Giedion's Mechanization Takes Command (1948). He was also interested in Paul Klee's Pedagogical Sketchbook. The pictures he made during these years were 'abstract' in the sense that he was preoccupied with using minimal elements to articulate the picture surface. Investigating Cézanne's method of structuring the surface thorough straight linear relationships, Hamilton realised that no single mark or agglomeration of marks could remain optically static on a surface. The paintings he made near the end of his studentship 'used little stick-like units which are located by a consideration of the plane and its given edges, but which happily accept the three-dimensional implications that inevitably arise' (Hamilton, p.12). As he was predisposed towards the representation of illusory space, perspective formed a major part of his student interests. The encircled black spot is a diagrammatic symbol used often in these paintings to mark vanishing points.

Further reading:
Richard Hamilton, Collected Words, London 1982, pp.12-13
Richard Morphet (ed.), Richard Hamilton, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1992, pp.144-6

Terry Riggs
December 1997

Display caption

This work, made when Hamilton was an art student, is one of a group in which he tried to present movement from an interior through a doorway to the space outside using the simplest elements possible. He realised that even a single line against the canvas can suggest space: its relative shape, size, colour, position and direction are all subconsciously interpreted by the human mind as having three-dimensional properties.Here, the stick-like units imply three-dimensional space, while the black spots are diagrammatic symbols that mark vanishing points.

Gallery label, August 2004

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