The print Soft pink landscape is based on a painting of the same title that Hamilton made in 1971-2 (Hungarian National Gallery, Ludwig Collection, Budapest). The painting, and its companion Soft blue landscape, 1976-80 (private collection) were produced in response to a group of advertisements for a new coloured line of Andrex toilet papers that became visible in the early 1960s. The adverts humourously introduced a giant roll of toilet paper, luxuriously packaged in floral-print paper, into a romantic woodland glade in which a misty-eyed feminine presence reclined seductively or hovered between leaves. Hamilton appropriated the imagery but reduced the scale of the toilet roll so that it is a more natural size. In both paintings, the landscape and its subjects are rendered loosely in an almost impressionistic style, while the roll of toilet paper – the colour scheme of its packaging identified in the painting’s title – is rendered more realistically so that it stands out from the soft, fluid imagery of the background. In the print it appears more homogenised. Hamilton commented:
Nature is beautiful. Pink from a morning sun filters through a tissue of autumn leaves. Golden shafts gleam through the perforated vaulting of the forest to illuminate a stage set-up for the Sunday supplement voyeur. Andrex discreetly presents a new colour magazine range. A pink as suggestively soft as last week’s blue – soft as pink flesh under an Empire negligée. The woodland equipped with every convenience. A veil of soft focus vegetation screens the peeper from the sentinel. Poussin? Claude? No, more like Watteau in its magical ambiguity.
Sometimes advertisements make me wax quite poetical. None more so than the series by Andrex showing two young ladies in the woods. I have, on occasions, tried to put into words that peculiar mixture of reverence and cynicism that ‘Pop’ culture induces in me and that I try to paint. I suppose that a balancing of these reactions is what I used to call non-Aristotelian or, alternatively, cool.
(Quoted in Collected Words, p.78.)
Concurrent with creating the first Soft pink landscape imagery, Hamilton had begun work on his Flower-piece paintings. The pink toilet roll that features in the foreground of Soft pink landscape features similarly in the foreground of the painting Flower-piece I, 1971-4 and the related prints Flower-piece B, Flower-piece B – crayon study and Flower-piece B – cyan separation (all 1975, Tate P12106, P12107 and P12105). At the same time Hamilton was combining poses of models squatting, taken from fashion magazines, with the motif of rural defecation which he derived from a French postcard showing young people squatting in a forest as a result of drinking laxative waters in a small spa in the Lot. For the artist, the juxtaposition of ‘girls and toilet paper – glamour and shit’ (Hamilton, Collected Words, p.100) is related to the memento mori traditionally included in the still life painting from the renaissance onwards. Nine years after making the first Soft pink landscape study, Hamilton discovered that the image that had inspired his painting had been conceived by the Op-art painter Bridget Riley (born 1931) when she was working at the J Walter Thompson advertising agency in London.
In his usual way, Hamilton took the print through several stages before it reached its final state. He made four studies in 1972 experimenting with dye transfer and oil (Soft pink landscape – study I – IV, Ludwig Museum, Cologne) before putting the image on one side for several years. When he returned to it in 1980, he started with the painting, photographing it and making a collotype proof. He worked on this print with coloured crayons, gouache and a spray gun before taking it to Heinz Häfner in Stuttgart, where a collotype using seven colours was eventually finalised. Hamilton then took the print to Frank Kircherer, also based in Stuttgart, to screenprint marks that look like daubs and dribbles of paint and scribblings with coloured pencils all over the print, both on the image and in its white borders. Marks in white and pastel colours predominate on the upper half of the image; scribbles in red, purple, green, yellow and black in the lower margin give a sense of spontaneity, as though the artist is still working on the image. Hamilton’s addition of painterly marks to Soft pink landscape recalls the small abstract areas he painted onto the photographic surface of People, 1968 (P01019) as well as the geometric areas of monotone colour he added to the photographic collages in Interior II, 1964 (T00912), Interior 1964-5 (P04250) and more recently, Interior with monochromes, 1979 (P07446).
Soft pink landscape was produced in an edition of 136 plus fourteen artist’s proofs. Tate’s copy is number forty-six in the edition which was distributed by Waddington Graphics, London. The artist inscribed the title, his signature and the edition number in pencil on the print.
Etienne Lullin, Richard Hamilton: Prints and Multiples 1939-2002, exhibition catalogue, Kunstmuseum Winterthur and Yale Center for British Art, New Haven 2003, pp158-9, reproduced p.159 in colour.
Richard Hamilton: Prints 1939-83, London and Stuttgart, 1984, p.78, reproduced in colour.
Richard Hamilton: Collected Words 1953-1982, London and New York, 1982, pp.78-80.