Catalogue entry

Richard Hamilton 1922-2011

T00705 Towards a definitive statement on the coming trends in men’s wear and accessories (a) Together let us explore the stars 1962

Inscr. ‘Wednesday August 15 1962’ on back.
Oil and collage on wood, 24 x 32 (61 x 81.5).
Purchased from the Hanover Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1964.
Exh: Hanover Gallery, October–November 1964 (16, repr.).
Repr: Charles S. Spencer, ‘Richard Hamilton, Painter of “Being Today”‘, in Studio, CLXVIII, 1964, p. 178.

One of four paintings with the general title ‘Towards a definitive statement on the coming trends in men’s wear and accessories’ which Hamilton painted in 1962–63 and exhibited at the Hanover Gallery in 1964. In the catalogue of that exhibition he noted that the idea for the series came from ‘a headline from a Playboy section on male fashion. The “Towards” was added to my title because I hoped to arrive at a definitive statement but never reached a point where I felt able to drop the tentative prefix. It became immediately apparent that fashion depends upon an occasion, season, time of day and, most importantly, the area of activity in which the wearer is involved. A definitive statement seemed hardly possible without some preliminary investigation into specific concepts of masculinity.’

The area explored in the present work is ‘man in a technological environment … Space research was then throwing up its early heroes, every freckle on Glenn’s face was familiar to the world. J. F. Kennedy had made his incredibly moving speech inviting all peoples to join together in the great tasks awaiting mankind—the exploration of the stars among them.’

In a letter to the compiler (1 January 1965) the artist added: ‘The painting was begun in the spring of 1962. The date on the back of the picture is… the completion date. It was the day that one of the great American orbits was announced—Shepherd probably, I don’t remember, the date was cut “from the newspaper and I felt it to be an appropriate moment to regard the painting as finished. It is possible that some additions were made afterwards. Maybe more pieces of a plastic model were put on some weeks later.

‘An overall composition was derived from the photographs of astronauts, in the early orbits, transmitted by television back to earth (top right is an area of painted TV scan lines). It is unlike these sources in being open and not at all claustrophobic—there is a god-like elevation in the treatment which harks back to ancient myths (Mercury-Icarus).

‘The accessories refer to several related contexts. A fragment of helmet from a Lucky Strike ad, a racing driver’s leather stitched head guard. A five-pointed knob, on the right, is as much Sheriff’s star as the control device from which it was taken. Technology at a mundane level is represented by a transistor radio printed circuit, at a banal level by a fruit machine dial. Top left is derived from the reflex system of the Cannon ciné camera. CCCP was added one day in response to a Russian orbit.

‘Generally speaking the trick was to achieve a unity with disparate small elements of similar size and shape.’

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1964–1965, London 1966.