Richard Hamilton

Respective

Hamilton Respective Pallant House Collection Frei - © R. Hamilton. All Rights Reserved/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016
  • Richard Hamilton
  • Respective
  • 1951
  • oil on canvas on board
  • 91,5 × 122 cm
  • Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, UK (Wilson Loan 2006) - © R. Hamilton. All Rights Reserved/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016

Richard Hamilton became interested in the fundamentals of perspective from attending lectures on the topic by Walter Bayes (1869–1956) at the Royal Academy Schools in the late 1930s. Bayes reduced perspective to its fundamentals: dots would represent the viewer, while a series of bisecting horizontals and verticals would indicate the horizon and the viewer’s center of vision. By the early 1950s, Hamilton had developed this “scientific aesthetic” to such a degree that, by applying it to such works as Respective (1951), abstract marks and translucent fields would come to constitute a complex cartography. 

Furthering these elementary studies of perception were James J. Gibson’s insights into human visual perception, particularly his wartime studies into the nature of empirically verified space, often derived from aerial photographs. In Respective Hamilton multiplied and combined Bayes’s traditional perspectives with Gibson’s dynamic viewpoints, anchoring the whole composition via a series of targets that fix one’s vision “like a bull’s-eye.” 

The range of these various sensations encountered by the viewer—of oscillating between vertical and horizontal axes, vision being pulled in multiple directions before becoming focused on a point—also alludes to the different speeds at which life in the 1950s was being experienced. As art critic and curator Lawrence Alloway once pointed out, the experience of motion parallax evident within these works have resonances with classic Hollywood cinema, particularly of the speeding car as seen from a moving train or the view through the windscreen of a moving car.

Damian Lentini

Biography of Richard Hamilton

  • Born 1922 in Pimlico, London, UK
  • Died 2011 in North End, UK
Richard Hamilton was a painter and collagist whose early works are considered the first examples of Pop art. Hamilton first studied at Saint Martin's School of Art before World War II, and later at the Royal Academy and the Slade School of Art. In the early 1950s he began exhibiting at London’s new Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), where he also took part in the inaugural meeting of the Independent Group. After seeing the proto-Pop art “Bunk” collage series (1947–52) by Eduardo Paolozzi, Hamilton began to produce promotional pieces for the Group; none more influential Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? (1956), a poster he designed for the exhibition This Is Tomorrow at the Whitechapel Gallery (1956). This collage is widely considered as the beginning of the Pop art movement. Hamilton’s work was featured in major exhibitions at the Tate Gallery, London (1970; 1992), Documenta, Kassel (1968), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1973), and the Bienal de São Paulo (1989). A major posthumous retrospective was organized by the Tate Modern, London, in collaboration with the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Central National Art Museum of Queen Sofia), Madrid (2014).