Richard Hamilton began his training at Saint Martin's School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools. Between 1941 and 1946 – too young for service in the Second World War – he worked as a draftsman. Later he studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. In the early fifties, while working as a model maker, and through his friendship with the artist and photographer Nigel Henderson, he exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, inaugurating a series of exhibitions that totally rethought the exhibition format. Also, during these years he was a member of the Independent Group, a collective formed in 1950 at the ICA by a group of architects, writers and artists.
Their discussions contributed greatly to the development of British Pop Art.
Hamilton was one of the first to take up art critic Lawrence Alloway’s theory on the continuity between Pop and fine arts. Hamilton interpreted this as meaning that in art there is no hierarchy of values: everything has equal value. His ideas were crucial to the consolidation of Pop art in Europe. Shown at the Whitechapel Gallery exhibition in London in 1956, it was the collage titled Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing? that proved decisive in this regard. He was the first to use the word ‘pop’, which appears on a lollipop in this collage. A great champion of Marcel Duchamp, Hamilton designed a typeset version of La boîte verte (La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même) [The Great Glass (The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even)].
In the summer of 1963, Richard Hamilton went to Cadaqués, in the north of the Costa Brava, Spain, to visit his friend Duchamp. Thereafter, he began to make extended stays in the town, inviting other artists with whom he collaborated, including Dieter Roth and Marcel Broodthaers.
Hamilton was one of the most influential British artists of the twentieth century, and his production covers various artistic techniques such as painting, drawing, printmaking, photography and design. Interested in bringing technology into art, in the eighties he began creating computer-based works. Both ironic and playful, his is a critical reflection on consumer society and contemporary media imagery.
Among his first exhibitions are Growth and Form (1950) at the ICA, London; Man, Machine and Motion (1955) at the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle, and the ICA, London; This is Tomorrow (1956) at the Whitechapel Gallery, London; and an Exhibit (1957) at the Hatton Gallery and the ICA. Retrospectives of Hamilton’s work include: the Tate Gallery, London (1970 and 1992); the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1973); MACBA, Barcelona, and the Ludwig Museum, Cologne (2003); and Tate Modern, London, and the Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2014). Among other international exhibitions, he participated in Documenta, Kassel (1968 and 1997), the biennales of São Paulo (1989), Venice (1993) and Shanghai (2006).
Institute of Contemporary Arts, ICA www.ica.art [consulted: 14 January 2015].
In 2003 Richard Hamilton (London, England, 1922) wrote the following short autobiography. ‘Enjoyed a long academic art training that was interrupted by the war, when he became an engineering draughtsman for the duration. Taught in art schools for fourteen years while trying to re-educate himself in the practice of painting. A devotion to the work and spirit of Marcel Duchamp led to his recapitulating, between 1957 and 1966, Duchamp’s Green Box and Large Glass – La Mariée mise a nu par ses cèlibataires, même. Achieved some success as a professional artist subsequent to an exhibition at the Tate Gallery, London, in 1970’.