Richard William Hamilton (24 February 1922 – 13 September 2011) was a British painter and collage artist. His 1955 exhibition Man, Machine and Motion and his 1956 collage, Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?, produced for the This Is Tomorrow exhibition of the Independent Group in London, are considered by critics and historians to be among the earliest works of Pop Art.
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Hamilton was born in Pimlico, London. Despite having left school with no formal qualifications, he managed to gain employment as an apprentice working at an electrical components firm, where he discovered an ability for draughtsmanship and began to do painting at evening classes at St Martin’s School of Art. This led to his entry into the Royal Academy Schools.
After spending the war working as a technical draftsman, he re-enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools but was later expelled on grounds of “not profiting from the instruction”, loss of his student status forcing Hamilton to carry out National Service. After two years at the Slade School of Art, University College, London, Hamilton began exhibiting his work at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) where he also produced posters and leaflets and teaching at the Central School of Art and Design.
The first exhibition of Hamilton’s paintings was shown at the Hanover Gallery, London, in 1955. In 1993, Hamilton represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale and was awarded the Golden Lion. Major retrospective exhibitions have been organized by the Tate Gallery, London, 1970 and 1992, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1973, MACBA, Barcelona, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 2003, and the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 1974. Some of the group exhibitions Hamilton participated in include: Documenta 4, Kassel, 1968; São Paulo Art Biennial, 1989; Documenta X, Kassel 1997; Gwangju Biennale, 2004; and Shanghai Biennale, 2006. In 2010, the Serpentine Gallery presented Hamilton’s ‘Modern Moral Matters’, an exhibition focusing on his political and protest works which were shown previously in 2008 at Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane is currently showing a joint retrospective exhibition of both Hamilton’s and Donagh’s work called Civil Rights etc., which will be shown until January 2012. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts showcased Hamilton’s work in Richard Hamilton: Pop Art Pioneer, 1922-2011 from November 19, 2011—March 18, 2012.
The Walton Fine Arts in London is the distributor of Hamilton’s prints.
The Tate Gallery has a comprehensive collection of Hamilton’s work from across his career. In 1996, the Kunstmuseum Winterthur received a substantial gift of Hamilton’s prints, making the museum the largest repository of the artist’s prints in the world.