Richard Hamilton

Richard Hamilton

Born: 1922. Died: 2011.

Biography

British painter, trained in art in evening classes and through advertising work, then at St Martin's School and the Royal College of Art, all in London.

To this he added in 1940 a course in engineering drawing and further art study at the Slade School.

In 1952-53 he taught design at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, and from 1953 until 1966 he was a lecturer in Fine Art at Durham University (later Newcastle University) where he and Pasmore instituted a basic design course.

He also taught through exhibitions: he presented Growth & Form in London 1951, and Man, Machine and Motion, Newcastle 1955.

In 1955, with the artist John McHale and the architect John Voelcker, he created an environment for the This is Tomorrow exhibition in London; his collage 'Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so treating?', done for the poster, is a synthetic image of popular Anglo-American taste and aspirations.

In 1952-55 he was a member of che Independent Group which met at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts to discuss questions of style and meaning in an age of popular mass-media taste.

In 1950, he had exhibited engravings.

In 1955 he had his first one-man show of paintings done since 1950; in 1964 his second, of work done 1956-64.

From this time on he exhibited frequently, attracting serious critical attention, patronage and demands for further exhibitions, but mostly from outside the UK. e.g. during 1967-70 he exhibited at Kassel, New York, Hamburg, Milan and Berlin.

In 1970, the Tate Gallery, London, put on a large retrospective, shown also in Eindhoven and Bern. It presented a body of work dedicated to exploring style as a symbolic and synthetic language in art and in high-commercial and common advertising, to offering a discourse requiring intelligent attention, and to questioning the traditional distinction between high art and low-brow, popular imagery. His means include fragmentary citations juxtaposed to imply conflict yet revealing consonances. 'I marvel that marks and shapes, simple or complex, have the capacity to enlarge consciousness, can allude back to an ever-widening history of mankind, can force emotional responses as well as aesthetic ones and permit both internal and external associations to germinate the imagination of the spectator' (1969).

His attention focused as much on how marks could be made and their burden of tradition as to the visual idioms of his day; his art, with its datable references to the present, was understood by him as part of a long history. James Joyce's Ulysses was a major stimulus; Duchamp became his particular master and in 1965-6 he organized for the Arts Council in London a great Duchamp exhibition which included his reconstruction of Duchamp's Large Glass.

Hamilton's work is grouped with the pop artists', yet his range and sheer learnedness is foreign to them and his purpose has been neither to celebrate nor satirize contemporary iconography, but to use it as a starting point for an exploration of the functioning and values of art.

In 1978, he was asked by the London National Gallery to present some of its paintings in the company of one of his own. In a short text, he associated himself especially with Jan van Eyck and the 'crystallization of thought that gives us an instant awareness of life's meaning'.

He was a lucid exponent of his own work and guide to others', especially Duchamp and more recently Dieter Roth with whom he collaborated on a number of occasions. His Collected Words were published in 1982.

His major exhibitions since 1970 have included those in New York (1973), Berlin (1974), London (1975 and 1993) and Amsterdam (1976). In 1989 he had a one-man show within the Sao Paulo Bienal; in 1994 he represented Britain at the Venice Riennale.

Major Works of Richard Hamilton

- Coming soon.

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