Friday, February 24, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ Richard Hamilton, Father of Pop Art.

 Heaventree of Stars
Some seven years ago, searching for artwork related to astrology I came across this print by English pop artist Richard Hamilton. Its title is from a quotation from James Joyce's Ulysses:
“The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.”

Richard Hamilton was dubbed "Father of Pop Art". It was he who coined a name for the genre in fact; he influenced many artists who came after. Mr Hamilton died, aged 89, in 2011. Today, 24 February is the anniversary of his birth in 1922, it seems appropriate to add to an old post of mine and re-air it.

Hamilton's best known work is a 1956 collage often cited as the beginning of English Pop Art: Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing? It was originally intended to be a poster advertising a famous London exhibition, This Is Tomorrow.

'Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?'

From a piece by Fiona MacCarthy in The Guardian in 2014:
In Britain in that early postwar era there was a sudden thrilling influx of sophisticated, streamlined consumer goods from the US. It was bonanza time for British housewares, too, as the government-supported Council of Industrial Design (now the Design Council) campaigned to improve standards in British manufacturing and a new breed of industrial designers emerged from British art schools. In 1956, exactly coinciding with Hamilton's collage, the Design Centre opened in the Haymarket, a heaven for aspirational homemakers. There was even a royal seal of approval when Prince Philip's inaugural prize for elegant design was awarded to the Prestcold Packaway refrigerator.

But, as Hamilton was well aware, a backlash was beginning. Richard Hoggart, in The Uses of Literacy (1957), voiced the misgivings of many in lamenting the pervasive influence of American mass culture, "full of corrupt brightness, of improper appeals and moral evasions". There was a dawning consciousness that have-it-all housewives could be less than happy. The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan's bestselling analysis of female domestic frustration, would be published in America in 1963. Labour-saving appliances were certainly seductive, but there was now a movement of suspicion and distrust that one might define as Tupperware resistance. As an artist, Hamilton thrived on this ambivalence.

That Hamilton was anti-capitalist is an understatement. But he still adored the uninhibited plenty of American culture. Like other contemporary artists, Allen Jones being an obvious example, he devoured and then recycled the imagery of popular American magazines. He spoke of this as "plundering the popular arts". By popular arts, Hamilton emphatically did not mean the folk arts, which turned him very squeamish. The neo‑romantics, the Kitchen Sink School and the St Ives artists were similar betes noires...........Hamilton's art contained the shock of the eclectic. His all-embracing attitudes caused widespread puzzlement. He challenged the traditional hierarchy of values, the purist view held by the British art establishment of what was proper subject matter for a work of art. Hamilton was a knowledgeable, deeply serious artist who loved and respected the great artists of the past. But he was also determinedly responsive to the modern. The critic David Sylvester, a friend of Hamilton's, described this as verging on madness, a consuming obsession with "modern living, modern technology, modern equipment, modern communications, modern materials, modern processes, modern attitudes"....

Hamilton took pride in variety. His work ranges from book illustration, for instance his 50-year stint illustrating James Joyce's Ulysses, through collages, sculptures, politically charged pictures, digital images, and straight-ahead painting. He was a friend of Paul McCartney and designed the now famous cover of the Beatles' White Album along with the poster which accompanies it. The album cover, one might think, needed little in the way of design, but the story goes that it was made deliberately simple after the uproar following a previous album cover showing the lads with butchered body parts and dolls' heads.


Richard Hamilton was born in London, UK, on 24 February 1922. No birth time available so a 12 noon chart is shown below.

Sun conjunct Venus and Uranus in Pisces; Moon (whatever the birth time)was in Aquarius with Mercury. It's all there, in a nutshell! Sun (self) Venus (art) Uranus(the unexpected, avant garde, eccentric) all closely linked in Pisces (imagination and dreams.) Moon (inner self) and Mercury (communication, mental process) in Aquarius, sign ruled by Uranus (as above).

As if all that weren't enough to describe him, there's a Yod (Finger of Fate) linking Saturn (work, business) and Neptune (creativity) via sextile, then connecting both planets via quincunx (150 degrees) to Uranus and Venus. This formation can be interpreted in astrology as a funnelling of the sextiled planets' blended characteristics through the planet(s) at the apex. So here, creativity (Neptune) and business (Saturn) are blended, and channelled into the world via art (Venus) in a changeable and often unconventional style (Uranus).


Barmaids Miss Douce and Miss Kennedy from the "Sirens" episode of Ulysses.

The Transmogrification of Bloom (Ulysses)

Shock & Awe (Y'll know this one!)

English politician of the mid 20th century Hugh Gaitskell, disguised as Phantom of the Opera . Hamilton was furious about his refusal to get rid of Britain's nuclear deterrent.

Guggenheim in Chrome

Mick Jagger, and the art dealer Robert Fraser, in handcuffs following a drug raid ( from the Swingeing London series, 1967 - 1972)


Five Tyres Remoulded

The White Album + Insert

The Artist


James Higham said...

"The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan's bestselling analysis of female domestic frustration"

I'd love to do some pop art on that, were the drawing skills a bit better. You can imagine the images and captions.

Twilight said...

James Higham ~ LOL! I think I'd best not!

Betty Friedan's bestselling analysis of female domestic frustration, would be published in America in 1963. Labour-saving appliances were certainly seductive, but there was now a movement of suspicion and distrust that one might define as Tupperware resistance.

Now, some 54 years later, similar distrust and suspicion begin to arise (from both genders this time) about technological and robotic intrusions, artificial intelligence etc. where automated voices emanate from pieces of plastic telling us ...stuff, or linking us to places we could easily reach without their help; or watching our every move, and documenting it to some "cloud". I wonder how Richard Hamilton would have pop-arted all this?

Wisewebwoman said...

I've seen his work before and love it.i think he be startled by how we're regressing today. Down the rabbit hole in unspeakable ways.


Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~ Yes, wouldn't he just?! Speaking of rabbit holes - it's strange, and handy, the way Lewis Carroll's imagery is always found to be a good fit, decade after decade. We humans never really change, that's why, I guess.