Celebrating Contemporary: Richard Hamilton's Four Self Portraits - 05.3.81

  • 21 September 2011

Four Self Portraits - 05.3.81 by 'father of Pop Art' Richard Hamilton is the focus of today's Celebrating Contemporary feature.

Richard Hamilton, Four Self Portraits - 05.3.81, 1990

Richard Hamilton, Four Self Portraits - 05.3.81, 1990

Four Self Portraits – 05.3.81 by 'father of Pop Art' Richard Hamilton is the focus of today's Celebrating Contemporary feature.

The work

Four Self Portraits – 05.3.81 exemplifies Richard Hamilton's experimental, layered approach to media. The basis of the piece is four polaroid photographs taken by Hamilton in 1981, which show the artist from multiple perspectives. He then elaborated on the photographs with acrylic paint, blurring the line between photography and painted portraiture.

Almost ten years later, Hamilton returned to the piece using new media, digitising the images and creating enlarged prints which he mounted on canvas. By doing so, Hamilton transposed the portraits not only into a new time, but a new scale and medium. Four Self Portraits – 05.3.81 was bought for the Tate Collection in 2008 as part of the ARTIST ROOMS acquisition, with help from the Art Fund. It will go on display at Tate Britain soon in tribute to Hamilton, who sadly died last week.

The artist

Richard Hamilton's wide-ranging work spanned painting, printmaking and typography among other media, combining formidable draughtsmanship with political charge. Hamilton studied at the Royal Academy Schools, and learned engineering draughtsmanship at a Government Training Centre before attending the Slade School of Art.

His most famous work is a collage titled Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?, which is now recognized as one of the earliest pieces of Pop Art. The Tate Gallery held major retrospectives of his work in 1970 and 1992, and in 1993 he represented Britain at the Venice Biennale.

Did you know?

Hamilton designed the iconic plain-white cover for The Beatles' ninth album, which gave it the nickname The White Album (in fact, the album is called The Beatles). He followed in the footsteps of fellow Pop artist Peter Blake, who was comissioned to create the sleeve for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

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