Regarded by many as the superstar of the British art scene, Richard Hamilton was the usual tall, grey figure humming incessantly while deep into his paintings. Apart from being a masterful painter Hamilton is also considered one of the greatest collage artists of all times. The Guardian famously called him the ‘Big Daddy of pop art’ back in 1966. Hamilton was also more than just a painter; he was one of the most vocal people to speak out openly against obscene museum charges, he also saved countless independent art galleries from getting the axe and was an avid art professor.
Richard William Hamilton was born in February 24, 1922 in Pimlico, London and received very basic formal education. It was only until after the war that Hamilton enrolled full time into studying art and started teaching it soon afterwards – a trend he continued even well into his life as a famous painter. Hamilton’s nick name, bestowed to him by the Guardian, stems from two of his most famous works – his exhibition Man, Machine and Motion and his collage Just What is it That makes Homes so Different, so Appealing? Both works of Hamilton are considered to be amongst the earliest works of pop art. It is ironic that most of Hamilton’s paintings and collages were inspired by glossy print ads of all things. In fact his work, Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? stands out due to its prophetic quality. The collage comprises of a TV lounge setting complete with print outs in black and white, a living room in colors, labels, a record player, vacuum cleaner and a sofa set. There is almost a playful quality associated with this masterpiece of Hamilton’s; many believe that Hamilton was trying to depict it like a print add in a catalog. It’s a very precise presentation of the spirit of the time he was painting. It represented everyone’s home in a crystalline format. The piece has a very catalog type feel to it, which is what that era was deeply embedded in due to the rise in consumer driven lives. Hamilton also developed a strange likeness to the American lifestyle which was loaded in consumerism, according to him it was what Britain wanted yet was afraid to say it out loud. His love for the American way of life drew disdain from art lovers in Britain; Hamilton’s adoration for the American way caused much skepticism by many. It would take a few years before people would see that it would form part of the new international pop art culture.
According to Hamilton’s work, art was meant to be unselfconscious and without inhibition. There should be no holding back when it came to art, which is why in many of his works Hamilton is seen as a playful and influential artist who broke all the rules. The unique thing about Hamilton was that he had immense respect and love for all great artists from the past but at the same time Hamilton’s art represented the present and future. In fact his interest in modern art bordered on addiction as he constantly painted and made collages of anything modernistic he could find including clothes, electronic goods, attitude and materials. It is almost as if Richard Hamilton knew in which direction modern art was heading in the future and all his work are signs which point in that direction.