Richard Hamilton, born in 1936 and unfortunately passing away in 2011, is the iconic founding father of pop art. Emerging in the 1950s, pop art was a movement that incorporated elements of popular and commercial culture, intent on capturing a wider audience than ever before. In 1956 Hamilton gave the movement its name and lay down some guidelines of which defined the art movement’s product. ‘Popular, Transient, Expendable, Low cost, Mass produced, Young, Witty, Sexy, Gimmicky, Glamorous and Big business.’ (Hamilton, R. 1956) these were the boxes to tick and the nation caught on, quickly.
Richard Hamilton loved a capitalist America, he was sceptical to its function and by no means pro-capitalist, but, admired the design, purpose, popularity and expendability of the largely produced product of commercialism. Enchanted by the American aesthetic, Richard Hamilton was naturally directed to the acquaintance of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Ed Ruscha, other artistic pioneers within the bounds of pop art, following Richard Hamilton’s example. These connections were fundamental to the thriving of pop art, publicly crazed by means of cultural relativity, bold presence and simplified wittiness. All so fundamentally integral to the impact of Richard Hamilton’s artwork.
In Hamilton’s 1956 collage ‘Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?’ he proceeds to decorate the inside of a household with commodities of westernised desire. A consumers buffet, where by the eye darts from one object to the next, replicating the randomised viewing experience of a cabinet of curiosity. Items of materialistic desire scattered around the room serving as eye candy for the viewer, and there could not be a more ambivalent collection of items. After the war, there was a period of heightened consumerism, the 1950s was a time of materialisation and Hamilton knew it, this commercial gold rush is depicted through the insignificance of the items. Objects that when received make us question the morality of a commercially-driven western society.
Richard Hamilton had a long, admirable career, spanning an eclectic range of artistic practices. In the 1940s, Hamilton explored biological matter and experimented with x-rays, along with other scientific processes. After the 1950s pop art extravaganza, moving in to the 1960s, Richard Hamilton surveyed the design of technological household products. Items that include electronic wares such as the iconic Braun toaster. With work that also covers a range of Duchamp inspired ready-mades, conceptual and minimalist sculpture, modern architecture and renaissance inspired painting, it is clear to say that Richard Hamilton’s artistic accomplishments are in the plenty.
Richard Hamilton also had interests and means of conveyance of the political type. Alongside his more politically motivated paintings in Ireland, the notorious image of Rolling Stone frontman, Mick Jagger and art dealer Robert Fraser bares politically related connotations. The pair were arrested for possession of marijuana, something Richard Hamilton considered a light offence. In the image of their arrest, Hamilton intends to make the subjects appear victimised. A media swarm, an unfortunate bang of the gavel, both elements seem over-emphasised and Hamilton chooses this opportunity to convey his means. The hiding of their faces and the aggressive nature of the hand-cuffs, allude to a sense of surprising discomfort, overwhelming idolisation and the harsh consequences of a celebrity lifestyle.
A huge inspiration to myself and a nation, Hamilton effectively encapsulates the glamorous allure of commercialism, soured by its consequential adversities. These notions speculate a personal interest that shapes my final collage work. I look to include cut and paste techniques similar to his own and I believe the physicality of the process emphasises your connection and passion for the concept. I will also investigate Richard Hamilton’s harsh but true depictions of a society’s lust for materialism, searching for a furthered understanding of a process I am trying to perfect. The father of pop art, so inspirational to myself, is a master of, subtle, yet witty conveyance, an iconic creator at the frontline of artistic development, who leaves a legacy, kindly bequeathed to the masses, as Richard Hamilton’s mark in history.
Livingstone, M. (1980) Pop Art: edited by Marco Livingstone. Accompanying Mercury Communications presents the pop art show, Royal Academy of Arts, London
Livingstone, M. (1990) Pop Art: A Continuing History. London: Thames & Hudson
Livingstone, M. (2010) Politics goes pop: Marco Livingstone applauds an exhibition that reveals the humanist views in the politically-charged work of Richard Hamilton. Apollo, Apr, 2010
MacCarthy, F. (2014) Richard Hamilton: they called him Daddy pop. Guardian Online [Viewed 23 Apr 2014]
Prince, M. (2010) Richard Hamilton: Modern Moral Matters. Art Monthly, May, 2010
Tate Online (2014), Richard Hamilton. [Viewed 23 Apr 2014] Available at: www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/richard-hamilton
Hamilton, R. and Francis, M.(1988), Richard Hamilton: Exhibition Catalogue. Fruit Market Gallery, Edinburgh, Oxford
Hamilton, R. and Godfrey, M. (2014) Exhibition: Richard Hamilton. Tate Modern, London, 13 Feb -26 May, 2014.
Riopelle, C. and Bracewell, M. (2012) Richard Hamilton: The Late Works. United Kingdom: National Gallery Company