Richard Hamilton



Not on display

Richard Hamilton 1922–2011
Lithograph, screenprint, pochoir and cosmetic on paper
Image: 749 × 650 mm
Purchased 1983


Hamilton was born and bred in London, attending the Slade School of Art from 1948-51. In 1952 he co-founded the Independent Group, a subsidiary of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, with fellow artist Eduardo Paolozzi (born 1924). An association of artists, architects, critics and academics, the Group focused their discussions on technology and contemporary culture. In 1956 Hamilton created some of his most famous images for This is Tomorrow, an exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery. Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? 1956 (Kunsthalle Tübingen, Zundel Collection) is a collage which was reproduced as a poster for the exhibition. Hamilton subsequently remade the image as a print in two versions, one in the original 1950s style (1991) and the other, Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different? (1993, Tate P11358), updated to reflect 1990s culture. In the original image, a semi-naked body builder holds a large red lollipop bearing the word ‘pop’ at the level of his genitals, signalling the arrival in Britain of ‘Pop’ art. Hamilton ironically defined this in 1957 as ‘Popular (designed for a mass audience), Transient (short term solution), Expendable (easily forgotten), Low cost, Mass produced, Young (aimed at youth), Witty, Sexy, Gimmicky, Glamorous, Big business’. (Quoted in Richard Hamilton, p.24.) He subsequently referred to pop culture as inducing a ‘peculiar mixture of reverence and cynicism ... in me’ (quoted in Richard Hamilton, p.84).

Hamilton’s practice draws on and comments upon a wide range of popular culture media and current events. Imagery found in newspapers, magazines, television, film and advertising is subjected to collage and painting techniques. Photographs are painted over and paintings are made from photographs. The techniques of screenprinting and lithography provide further versions of an image. More recently Hamilton has worked with a Quantel Paintbox graphic imager which has allowed him to collage on computer and produce inkjet prints. Images often reappear in successive states of a large series. Swingeing London, for example, is the title of seven paintings and many more prints based on a 1967 press photograph of rock star Mick Jagger and Robert Fraser (Hamilton’s gallerist at the time) handcuffed together inside a police van. Hamilton’s treatment of the image in some of its states pushes at the limits of representation. Photographs of seductive women, still lives, landscapes, interiors and buildings are all treated with a nod to art history and a questioning of the relationship between painting and photography, representation and reality. At the same time Hamilton’s use of the language of popular culture reflects on the nature of the imagery we all find so appealing today.

Further reading;
Richard Hamilton, exhibition catalogue, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 1974
Richard Hamilton, exhibition brochure, Tate Gallery, London 1992
Richard Hamilton: New Technology and Printmaking, exhibition catalogue, Alan Cristea Gallery, London 1998

Elizabeth Manchester
February 2003

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Online caption

Fashion-plate is a print related to the series Cosmetic Studies in which Hamilton put together fragments of photographs of models from fashion magazines. They demonstrated Hamilton’s fondness for re-using and re-defining recognisable images in a new context. Here, he used photographs of actress Sophia Loren taken from a magazine. In collaboration with photographer Tony Evans, Hamilton then shot photographic studio equipment. These frame the portrait and also emphasise the fashion and pop art imagery. Hamilton then built up collage elements and stencilling (pochoir) using actual cosmetics.

Catalogue entry

P07937 Fashion-plate 1969–70

Screenprint with offset lithography, hand colouring and collage 29 1/2 × 25 5/8 (749 × 650) on paper 39 × 27 1/4 (990 × 692) watermarked ‘FABRIANO’, offset lithography printed by Sergio and Fausta Tosi, Milan, screenprinting by Chris Prater at Kelpra Studio, published by Petersburg Press in an edition of 70
Inscribed ‘Tony's proof from Richard’ b.r.
Purchased at Sotheby's (Grant-in-Aid) 1983
Lit: Hamilton, no.74, repr. p.55; Morphet, pp.86–7

‘Fashion-plate’ is related to a series of ‘Cosmetic Studies’ of the same title made in 1969, in which Hamilton put together fragments of photographs of models from fashion magazines. With a full-length painting on this subject in mind, three preliminary studies were made, then,

Determined to make a print as a further step towards a painting, Hamilton photographed, in collaboration with Tony Evans, a carefully-chosen grouping of studio equipment for fashion photography, to act as a frame for a head-and-shoulders image, and to emphasise the ritualistic character of the fashion photo-session. This was lithographed in Milan, soft tonality and luminous whiteness being accentuated. Hamilton began building up on the sheet... collage elements which should recur throughout the print's edition. As this proceeded, the difficulty of obtaining sufficient identical collage material for an edition combined with the developing physical interest of this and other studies to change the project to one of an interlinked series of collage-drawings (Morphet, p.86).

A further twelve collages were made (repr. Morphet, pp.88–9). In order to solve the problem of obtaining identical collage elements for the editioned print he still wanted to make using the same lithographed framework, Hamilton borrowed transparencies from David Bailey and had the fragments he required printed from them, also in Milan (the high technical quality of Bailey's original ektochromes permitted reproduction whereas printing from already-printed source material would not have been satisfactory). Areas of flat colour were screenprinted at Kelpra. Pochoir was done by the artist (with the assistance of Ernie Donagh) in his own studio; finally Hamilton added handmade marks in cosmetics.

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

You might like