Richard Hamilton



In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Richard Hamilton 1922–2011
Etching and aquatint on paper
Image: 300 × 196 mm
support: 375 × 277 mm
Purchased 1982

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

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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

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