The 1960s witnessed a massive growth in the phenomenon of celebrity. The old class-based elite gave way to a glamorous new group of young people: a ‘popocracy’ including artists, designers, photographers, models, actors and writers.

In parallel, the 1960s saw a tendency for people to position themselves by reference to their heroes. This was the age that saw the phenomenon of the ‘fan’ - most dramatically in Beatlemania. The commodification of fame and personality was a theme taken up by many artists.

Many photos of the period were concerned with the character and status of celebrities, while the public image of many pop groups and film stars was defined through iconic photographs.

Marilyn Monroe was the ultimate blonde sex symbol. This painting, derived from a photograph, was made the year after her death. The title may refer ironically to men’s fascination with Monroe. It may also relate to the fact that the artist, Pauline Boty, was herself a beautiful blonde woman whose appearance was frequently referred to in discussions of her work.

Pauline Boty, ‘The Only Blonde in the World’ 1963
Pauline Boty
The Only Blonde in the World 1963
© The estate of Pauline Boty

Hamilton uses an image from the tabloid press of Mick Jagger and Robert Fraser handcuffed together inside a police van, commenting on the avalanche of press coverage of their arrest for possession of drugs. The title comes from a comment by the judge: ‘There are times when a swingeing sentence should be administered’. Hamilton combined it with a reference to a Time magazine article of 15 April 1966, titled London: The Swinging City, mythologizing the ‘scene’ in London. ‘So it was a pun on swinging London and the swingeing sentence’

Richard Hamilton, ‘Swingeing London 67 (f)’ 1968–9
Richard Hamilton
Swingeing London 67 (f) 1968–9
© The estate of Richard Hamilton