Richard Hamilton

From the New York Times this week, William Grimes’s “Richard Hamilton, British Painter and a Creator of Pop Art, Dies at 89” (on-line on September 13):

Richard Hamilton, a British painter and printmaker whose sly, trenchant take on consumer culture and advertising made him a pioneering figure in Pop Art, and who designed the cover of the Beatles’ “White Album,” died on Tuesday at his home near Oxford.

His most famous work is a collage.

From the Wikipedia entry:

Richard William Hamilton, CH (24 February 1922 – 13 September 2011) was a British painter and collage artist. His 1956 collage, Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?, produced for the This Is Tomorrow exhibition of the Independent Group in London, is considered by critics and historians to be one of the early works of pop art.

A reproduction of Homes:

(Thanks to Victor Steinbok for the link to this version.)

More from William Grimes:

… Using images cut from mass-circulation magazines, the collage depicted a nude bodybuilder and a nude woman, posing alluringly on a sofa with a lampshade on her head, in a living room stocked with the goods and emblems of the postwar good life, American-style. A canned ham sits on an end table. A cover of Young Romance magazine is framed on the wall. The man holds a giant Tootsie Pop, with the word “Pop” occupying the center of the collage at eye level.

“Such was the success of this tiny and painstaking collocation that many people are still stuck with the idea of Hamilton as the man who single-handedly laid down the terms within which Pop Art was to operate,” the critic John Russell wrote in the catalog for a 1973 Hamilton retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

With the stated mission of expressing, and critiquing, the essence of consumer culture, which he described as “popular, transient, expendable, low-cost, mass-produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous and big business,” Mr. Hamilton went on to create many of the paintings that defined first-generation British Pop Art.

Notable among these were “Hommage à Chrysler Corp.,” in which the seductive curves of a car bumper and headlights blend with the ghostly image of a red-lipsticked Venus, and “She,” in which a toaster, vacuum cleaner, refrigerator and breasts float in a consumer dreamspace that Mr. Hamilton regarded with a certain ambivalence.

Collage, of course has a millennia-long history. It emerged as a artists’ technique and genre after 1900, “in conjunction with the early stages of modernism” (link). The technique then connected with the analysis and critique of consumer culture in the pop art of the 1950s. (My own collages lean heavily on images from mass and consumer culture — especially on gay porn as a species of consumer culture.)

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