Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Artist Richard Hamilton R.I.P.

Painter and collage artist Richard Hamilton passed on 13 September 2011 at the age of 89. He was perhaps best known as the founder of the Pop Art movement, primarily because his collage Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing was considered one of the earliest works in the movement.

Richard Hamilton was born in London on 24 February 1922. From when he was very young he wanted to be an artist. He left elementary school early and worked as an electrical engineer and attended night classes at St. Martin's School of Art. At age 16 he switched to the Royal Academy, but his education was interrupted by World War II. During World War II he worked as a jig and tool draughtsman at EMI. Following World War II he returned to the Royal Academy, but was eventually expelled. He then attended Slade. It was there that he began illustrating James Joyce's Ulysses, a project which lasted in to the Nineties.

Following Mr. Hamilton's graduation, he was often employed the Institute of Contemporary Arts, for whom he produced leaflets and posters, as well as curated exhibits. He also taught at the Central School of Art and Design. Richard Hamilton's 1956 collage Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing would prove highly influential and provide the inspiration for the Pop Art of the Sixties. Indeed, among other things the collage featured the cover of a romance comic book book as a poster (anticipating the work of Roy Lichtenstein), an Armour Star tinned ham (anticipating Andy Warhol's Campbell Soup cans), the old Ford Motors logo (anticipating James Rosenquist's I Love You with My Ford), and other familiar items from everyday life. Over the years Mr. Hamilton would do a typographical reworking of fellow artist Marcel DuChamps The Green Box, a series of prints entitled Swinging London, the cover of The Beatles' eponymous double album (popularly known as The White Album),  a series of paintings (informally known as The Maze) based on the conflicts of the Irish Republican Army, and his series of illustrations entitled Imagining Ulysses based on the James Joyce novel.

Richard Hamilton has often been regarded as one of the founding fathers of Pop Art, he did not particularly care to be regarded as such. The reason was simply that while Mr. Hamilton may have provided inspiration for the movement, his work was a very eclectic mix that embraced several different genres and even several different media. While much of his work (such as his silk screens of Marilyn Monroe) could quite rightfully be described as Pop Art, a lot of his work (such as Imagining Ulysses) certainly could not be called such. He was both talented and versatile, with a love not only of art but even technology. Richard Hamilton even designed computers--the OHIO computer prototype in 1984 and the DIAB DS-101 in 1986. Few artists could boast of the achievements of Richard Hamilton, which ranged from typography to painting to collage art.

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