Richard Hamilton

Self-portrait

1951

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Medium
Etching and aquatint on paper
Dimensions
Image: 300 x 196 mm
support: 375 x 277 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1982
Reference
P07657

Display caption

These prints, with their tentative shapes resembling amoebae, anemones and other forms of microscopic life, were made in response to D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson's book on morphology On Growth and Form (1917). The book was a scientific study of the forms in nature, which argued that recognisable mathematical structures can be found in all organisms. The print titled Heteromorphism was used as the cover of a catalogue for Growth and Form, an exhibition inspired by Thompson's theories, which Hamilton and Nigel Henderson organised in 1951, when they were both studying at the Slade School of Art. (See display cases).

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

P07657 Self-portrait 1951


Etching with aquatint and roulette 11 3/4 × 7 3/4 (300 × 196) on paper 14 3/4 × 10 7/8 (375 × 277), printed by the artist at the Slade School of Art, not editioned

Inscribed ‘Richard Hamilton’ b.l. and ‘Self-portrait’

Purchased from the artist (Grant-in-Aid) 1982

Lit: Hamilton no.42, repr. p.35

This print combines two aspects of Hamilton's work: his use of autonomous marks, the making of which in itself determines the form of the work, and his use of biological - i.e. natural - subject matter, drawn from Thompson's observation of the way things grow, as a visual language. Its third important aspect is described by Richard Morphet: ‘Hamilton's mouth is a sea-urchin, his ear a shell, his tie a flat worm regenerating after section, and one side of his face is defined by a bull-sperm. The Arcimboldesque principle points up the fact that in all Hamilton's Self-portraits ... the artist becomes one with the substance of his current obsessions’ (Morphet, p.23).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986