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RICHARD HAMILTON (1922-2011)
In Horne's House
etching with engraving and aquatint, on Rives paper, 1981-82, signed and titled in pencil, numbered 36/120 (there were also twelve artist's proofs), published by Waddington Graphics, London, with their blindstamp, with full margins, in very good condition
Image: 20 7/8 x 17 in. (530 x 432 mm.)
Sheet: 29 5/8 x 22 1/8 in. (759 x 562 mm.)
Literature
Lullin 120, Waddington 115
Exhibited
Williamstown, Massachusetts, Williams College Museum of Art; Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts; The Modern Art of the Print: Selections from the Collection of Lois and Michael Torf, 5 May-14 October 1984, no. 82, p. 146; pl. XXXI, p. 95 (illustrated)

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Lot Essay

Richard Hamilton’s homage to James Joyce is a valentine of thirty years gestation. In 1947, while fulfilling military service, the artist immersed himself in reading and re-reading Joyce's novel Ulysses. The mastery in weaving together disparate literary styles struck a responsive chord, and Hamilton set out to illustrate the masterpiece. Initially he intended to produce one etching in a different style for each chapter, but the project was never realized.
Of all the episodes in Ulysses “Oxen in the Sun” demonstrates most vividly the “conjunction of disparate styles’ that Hamilton so admired. Thus, in 1980, when, on the eve of Joyce's centenary, Hamilton began to think again about illustrating Leopold Bloom's eighteen-hour odyssey through Dublin, the segment of that chapter recounting the drunken carousal in Arthur Horne’s maternity hospital came naturally to mind.
In the course of relating the pedestrian events whereby Bloom checks on the accouchement of a Mrs. Mina Pure joy, is waylaid by a medical student, and coaxed into Joining a rowdy drinking party, Joyce analogizes the birth of a child to the birth of language. Beginning with confused baby talk, the author parodies the evolution of the English language, from Anglo-Saxon through Shakespeare up to Dickens, and concludes with current slang. The episode ends in disordered chatter — a pointed comment on ‘‘the collapse of the old patterns of culture and the decay of literature begun in the nineteenth century and accelerated in the twentieth’ (Blamires, The Bloomsday Book, p. 162).
The original 1949 study for in Horne’s House was a paraphrase of Cubism, which Hamilton called in retrospect “an unworthy solution” as compared with the dauntless ambition of Joyce’s pyrotechnics. ‘A pastiche of different historic styles of art is clearly more appropriate for the birth episode’ (Hamilton, Collected Words, p. 109.) No doubt, Joyce would have been pleased with Hamilton's solution, combining as it does straightforward allusions to past art with multilevel correspondences. Hamilton situates the viewer in a room in the lying-in hospital, where the medical students, Stephen Dedalus, and Leopold Bloom have gathered to drink and make lewd banter. The chief action focuses on Punch Costello, one of the young doctors, who pounds his fist on the table while striking up a bawdy song. The noise summons nurse Quigley, who angrily demands quiet (Joyce, Ulysses, p. 392). The nun seems to stand also for Sister Callan, another nurse who appeared in the doorway earlier and also begged for restraint from the roisterers. Certainly the younger and sweeter Sister Callan is more like Hamilton's source — Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna and Child in Bergamo from 1460- 1464 — than the “ancient” Quigley.
The figure of Punch Costello, like that of Nurse Quigley/Callan, also accommodates another identity. It seems to stand for Stephen Dedalus delivering his blasphemous diatribe a few paragraphs further on (Ulysses, p. 394). Costello is described as ‘ugly and misshapen, while Dedalus is a heroic figure — admittedly a flawed one — more in keeping with Hamilton’s artistic source: the fistpounder is lifted from Baron Gros's Napoleon at Arcole (1801 Salon, Musée du Louvre), not from Jacques-Louis David, as Hamilton states (Collected Words, p. 109). On the opposite side of the table sits the Cézannesque Leopold Bloom. He pours a beer, referring to the passage later on in the text in which he helps the medical student Lenehan to a bottle of Bass. This moment in the narrative is one of increasing diffusion, a perfect place for Hamilton to introduce the Cubist-style still life on the table. Its inclusion is even wittier since Braque’s Cubist still life Bass of 1911 (see cat. no. 28) refers to precisely the same brand of ale: “...number one Bass bottled by Messrs. Bass and Co. at Burton on Trent” (Ulysses, p. 417).
Hamilton, known for his scrupulousness as a printmaker, comments: “...a tour de force of lift-ground etching, the composition was elaborated with carefully timed acid bites applied to the plate by brush and swab rather than by immersion in a bath. There is some stipple and line etching and a little tidying up with a burin”’ (Collected Words, p. 109).
Deborah Menaker, The Modern Art of the Print: Selections from the Collection of Lois and Michael Torf, p.95

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