Williamson Art Gallery and Museum: Richard Hamilton 
Word and Image, Prints 1963-2007

Release, 1972, Courtesy Alan Cristea Gallery
Release, 1972, Courtesy Alan Cristea Gallery

21 June – 31 August 2014

Wednesday – Sunday 10.00 – 17.00

Free

Richard Hamilton was one of the most influential British artists of the twentieth century, often known as the ‘Father of Pop Art’. Hamilton designed the plain white album cover of The Beatles’ White Album, a white square with the embossed name of the group and grey number in one corner, and won the John Moores Painting Prize in 1960 with his painting Toaster, a print of which is in the exhibition.

The Williamson Art Gallery & Museum, Birkenhead, will show an exhibition of his prints this summer, presented with Barbican International Enterprises in partnership with the Alan Cristea Gallery, the first showing of this touring exhibition outside London. The exhibition will feature over 40 works of great variety and traces themes in the artist’s work over 40 years: themes of protest, portraits, interiors and landscapes to provide an unparalleled insight into Hamilton’s creative process and his breadth of visual experimentation.

Toaster, 1967, Courtesy Alan Cristea Gallery
Toaster, 1967, Courtesy Alan Cristea Gallery

Among his most celebrated prints are the Swingeing London ‘67 series, which served as Hamilton’s response to the arrest of his friend and art dealer Robert Fraser, along with Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger, during the notorious police drugs raid on Redlands, the Sussex home of Keith Richards. The image is based on a newspaper photograph and Hamilton typically produced multiple variants from the same image.

A printmaker from student days, one of his early experiments in screenprinting is seen in Adonis in Y fronts (1963) on show at the Williamson. The exhibition will feature a number of Hamilton’s most celebrated prints including a 1991 version of his seminal 1956 collage Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? This was the work in which the word ‘Pop’ first appeared, the term that then lent itself to an international art movement which was defined by Hamilton himself in a now famous letter written in 1957 stating that “Pop Art is: popular, transient, expendable, lowcost, mass-produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, and Big Business.”

Printmaking was essential to Richard Hamilton’s practice. To accompany the major retrospective of Hamilton’s work at Tate Modern in London a few months ago, Alan Cristea Gallery presented a major survey of Hamilton’s original prints. This exhibition, now touring, explores the themes of protest, portraits, interiors and landscapes, incorporating different versions of the same images and themes, to provide an unparalleled insight into Hamilton’s creative process and his breadth of visual experimentation. Many techniques are used, and many subjects, including an uncompleted set of prints inspired by James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Fascinated by the techniques of printmaking, the artist enjoyed working with professionals in their field. Hamilton said of the relationship between artists and printers: “Early in my experience of printmaking I came to accept the advantages of working with great craftsmen…Master printers know their workshops, their presses, acids and pigments. The artist’s responsibility is to labour over his plates or stones…He must be a control freak until that final proof is made. Then it is up to the printer to complete the edition.”

Williamson Art Gallery & Museum, Slatey Road, Birkenhead CH43 4UE

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