Richard Hamilton



In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Richard Hamilton 1922–2011
Screenprint on paper
Image: 495 × 638 mm
Presented by Rose and Chris Prater through the Institute of Contemporary Prints 1975


The print Interior belongs to a group of works based on a 1948 film still that Hamilton discovered by chance. Hamilton was teaching art at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne when he found a still from the film Shockproof (1949, director Douglas Sirk, screenplay by Samuel Fuller) lying on a classroom floor. The artist was struck by the carefully arranged composition of the still, photographed in a specially constructed set and explained:

Everything in the photograph converged on a girl in a ‘new look’ coat who stared out slightly to right of camera. A very wide-angle lens must have been used because the perspective seemed distorted; but the disquiet of the scene was due to two other factors. It was a film set, not a real room, so wall surfaces were not explicitly conjoined; and the lighting came from several different sources. Since the scale of the room had not become unreasonably enlarged, as one might expect from the use of a wide-angle lens, it could be assumed that false perspective had been introduced to counteract its effect – yet the foreground remained emphatically close and the recession extreme. All this contributed more to the foreboding atmosphere than the casually observed body lying on the floor, partially concealed by a desk. I made three collaged studies and two paintings based on this image of an interior – ominous, provocative, ambiguous; a confrontation with which the spectator is familiar yet not at ease.
(Quoted in Collected Words, p.61.)

Interior is a mirror-reversal screenprint version of the first of the three collages, Interior study (a) (Swindon Museum and Art Gallery), (b) and (c) (both private collections, London), that Hamilton created in 1964. Like his earlier image of an interior, the famous 1956 collage Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?(Kunsthalle Tübingen), Interior study (a) is made up of fragments sourced from magazines. Hamilton copied the floor-length curtain in the left side of the film still with a more stylistically up-to-date one in the new image. Because the print Interior is a mirror-reversal of Interior study (a), this curtain is on the right side of the image. Hamilton replaced the image of the actress Patricia Knight (1915-2004) in the still with the image of an unknown woman dressed in 1960s fashion. She stands on a Turkish carpet, in front of a doorway leading to a dining room. Behind her a mirror in an ornate frame shows a reflection of a small framed artwork. More framed images hang on the wall to the mirror’s right. A bookshelf, a vase of flowers and a closed double door are partially concealed by a large square masquerading as a canvas propped on an easel. The square ‘canvas’ contains a photograph of a television showing a group of figures. To the left of the easel the image becomes increasingly abstract with a monotone area of yellow emerging from a corner of wooden parquet and bisected by a parallelogram of deep red, suggesting a rug and perhaps evoking the corpse lying on the floor in the original film still. Hamilton used this area of the study again in the painting Interior II (T00912), where the floor-length curtain also features. In the foreground of the print, part of a wicker chair appears, out of focus, in front of a photograph of a large, old desk. Hamilton described the process of creating Interior:

The screenprint version of the Interior theme starts from a black and white photograph of one of a group of collages and colour is added to give a pseudo-photographic effect of half-tone colour reproduction. I made colour separations by hand, using ready-made mechanical tints. In parts the techniques are revealed for what they are by removing the overlying black screen. The general quality of collage, the dominant method of the studies and paintings on the subject, is maintained with this use of fragments of evenly dotted cellophane, Zip-a-tone, Plastitone, Cellutint and other brands.
(Quoted in Collected Words, p.89.)

Interior was preceded by Interior (state), 1964 (printed in an edition of four) which is virtually identical apart from a picture-filled area of wall on the left side of the image that the artist partially covered and abstracted in the later version. Hamilton and Chris Prater screenprinted Interior on Crisbrook paper using eight stencils at Kelpra Studio, London. The print was produced in an edition of fifty plus an unknown number of artist’s and printer’s proofs and published by Editions Alecto, London. Tate’s copy is an artist’s proof.

Further reading
Richard Hamilton: Collected Words 1953-1982, London and New York, 1982, pp.61-3 and 89, reproduced p.89 in colour.
Etienne Lullin, Richard Hamilton: Prints and Multiples 1939-2002, exhibition catalogue, Kunstmuseum Winterthur and Yale Center for British Art, New Haven 2003, pp.64-7, reproduced p.67 in colour.

Elizabeth Manchester
September 2007

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Display caption

Hamilton claimed that any interior is 'a set of anachronisms, a museum, with the lingering residues of decorative styles that an inhabited space collects.' In this print, he contrasts an elaborately decorated interior with uncluttered coloured planes reminiscent of modernist architecture and design. The clash of styles is also reflected in his combination of painting with silkscreen printing, a technique associated with commercial art that allowed the direct transfer of photographic images onto canvas.

Gallery label, September 2004

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