Richard Hamilton 1922-2011



Richard Hamilton was a British painter and collage artist, and one of the earliest progenitors of Pop Art. Hamilton, who was born in London, England, took evening art classes before studying painting at the Royal Academy School in 1938. He left school to work as an industrial designer. Returning to the academy in 1946, Hamilton was later expelled for not following the directions of his instructors. He continued his education at Sade School of Art in London, from 1948 to 1955.


Starting in 1948, Hamilton found himself heavily influenced by the works of James Joyce and Marcel Duchamp. Hamilton did the illustrations for James’s book Ulysses. Hamilton began to exhibit his work at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, where Eduardo Paolozzi displayed his collage work. His first major work in collage was titled Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? (1956). The collage shows a nude couple, cut from the pages of a magazine relaxing among images of modern convenience.


Hamilton found himself focusing more on everyday popular culture, and he began to produce work that defined that culture in his own words, such as Popular, Transient, Expendable, Low Cost, Mass Produced, Young, Witty, Sexy, Gimmicky, Glamorous, and Big Business. The painting AAH (1962) illustrates his thoughts on popular culture of the time. The well-known Portrait of Hugh Gaitskell as a Famous Monster of Filmland (1964) was done in response to the snobbish dismissal the upper class showed toward popular culture and Pop Art. It was a black and white photograph of the deceased British Labor Party leader painted over with oil. In 1977, Hamilton teamed up with the artist Dieter Roth to produce a series of stylistic paintings entitled Collaborations of Ch. Rotham, in which they adopted several different artistic voices in each painting they produced. Hamilton was commissioned by the Beatles to do the cover artwork for the White Album (1968). He landed the job via a mutual friend and gallery owner. Many of Hamilton’s works are displayed at the Tate Gallery in London, England; The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY; and The Museum of Modern Art in New York, NY.


Hamilton died on September 13, 2011, in Oxfordshire, England.