Richard Hamilton (1922-2011)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE LATE BENN AND CONSTANCE LEVYBenn Levy (1900-1973), playwright and politician, was a keen collector of contemporary art in his twenties. In 1932, he met Constance Cummings (1910-2005) in Hollywood, then already a movie star, and the couple moved to England and married in 1933. In 1936, they commissioned Walter Gropius and Maxwell Fry to build their home at 66 Old Church Street, Chelsea, now a Grade II listed building, which they decorated with an eclectic mixture of modern art and period furniture. During the Second World War, Levy served in the Navy and Cummings worked with the Entertainments National Service Association, providing entertainment shows for the troops. Following the war, Levy became a Labour MP in the Attlee government from 1945-50, while continuing to write plays for the West End until the late 1960s. Constance Cummings continued to star both on stage and screen until her late eighties, including alongside Rex Harrison in David Lean's Blithe Spirit (1945).The couple continued to collect paintings from young contemporary artists. They also had a keen interest in sculpture, and bought or commissioned sculptures by Jacob Epstein, Elisabeth Frink, Robert Clatworthy and Lynn Chadwick. Their collection of artwork by Richard Hamilton stemmed from a chance meeting in Spain with the artist and his wife Terry O'Reilly where both were on holiday with their families. They shared a political outlook and a commitment to nuclear disarmament, being prominent members of the CND. This friendship continued throughout their lives and Benn and Constance collected works by Hamilton in the 1950s and 1960s. In addition to Study for $he, 1958, these included earlier works by the artist (please see lots 221-223 in the Modern British Art Day Sale, 23 November). After Benn Levy’s death in 1973, Constance Cummings progressively spent more time at their house and farm in Oxfordshire, where she developed a keen interest in her herd of pedigree Friesian cattle, while continuing to work in films and the theatre.
Richard Hamilton (1922-2011)

Study for $he

Richard Hamilton (1922-2011)
Study for $he
pencil, ink, watercolour, gouache and collage
9 7/8 x 6 7/8 in. (25 x 17.5 cm.)
Executed in 1958.
Acquired directly from the artist by Benn and Constance Levy, and by descent.
Exhibition catalogue, Richard Hamilton Paintings etc. '56-64, London, Hanover Gallery, 1964, p. 13, no. 7.
Exhibition catalogue, Richard Hamilton, London, Tate Gallery, 1970, pp. 37, 91, no. 38, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Richard Hamilton Retrospective, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1973, pp. 30-31, 90, no. 30, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Pop Art in England, Hamburg, British Council, Kunstverein, 1976, pp. 46, 48, 131, no. 13, pl. 33.
Exhibition catalogue, Richard Hamilton Studies 1937-1977, Bielefeld, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, 1978, pp. 110, 229, no. 67.
Exhibition catalogue, The Independent Group: Postwar Britain and the Aesthetics of Plenty, London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1990, p. 74, no. 16, illustrated.
London, Hanover Gallery, Richard Hamilton Paintings etc. '56-64, October - November 1964, no. 7.
London, Tate Gallery, Richard Hamilton, February - March 1970, no. 38: this exhibition travelled to Eindhoven, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, May - June 1970; and Bern, Kunsthalle, July - August 1970.
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Richard Hamilton Retrospective, September - November 1973, no. 30: this exhibition travelled to Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, March - May 1974; and Berlin, Nationalgalerie, July - August 1974.
Hamburg, British Council, Kunstverein, Pop Art in England, February - March 1976, no. 13: this exhibition travelled to Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, April - May 1976; and York, City Art Gallery, May - July 1976.
Bielefeld, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Richard Hamilton Studies 1937-1977, April - May 1978, no. 67: this exhibition travelled to Tübingen, Kunsthalle Tübingen, May - June 1978; and Göttingen, Kunstverein Göttingen, June - July 1978.
London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Independent Group: Postwar Britain and the Aesthetics of Plenty, February - April 1990, no. 16: this exhibition travelled to Valencia, IVAM, June - August 1990; Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, November 1990 - January 1991; Berkeley, University Art Museum, February - April 1991; Dartmouth, Hood Museum of Art, June - August 1991; and Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, September - November 1991.
Barcelona, Centre de Cultura Contemporania, Richard Hamilton: Retrospective, July - November 2003, no. 315, ex-catalogue.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Louise Simpson
Louise Simpson

Lot Essay

Study for $he is a preparatory work by Richard Hamilton for his major Pop Art work, $he, 1958-61 (Tate, London). In this trial layout, which Hamilton worked on throughout 1958, he experimented with the various elements which would eventually make up the finished work. There is a consistency between several details of this study and $he. The visual inspiration for the works came from an American advertisement for a capacious, pink RCA refrigerator. The open door is placed to the right of the composition in the study, with the candy pink subtly indicated by a watercolour wash. The colour was to be stronger in the finished piece. An image of the female glamour model, Vikki Dougan, is another consistent feature. The photograph is taken from an issue of Esquire magazine and the outline of her breasts and lower back is outlined in shaded pencil here and would eventually be outlined in white painted, thin plywood. The image of the toaster in the foreground, with the path of the ejected toast mapped out in dots, is common to both works in outline. This was taken from an advertisement for a General Electric small appliance which Hamilton combined with the hose from another advertisement, this time for a Westinghouse vacuum cleaner. The triangular composition remains the same, but there are some marked differences which show a maturation of the creative process as the artist addressed the imagery of the contemporary admass world. The hair and smile of the model in this version was removed, her face only indicated by a winking eye to represent a more robotic form. The object at the centre of the composition, the rotary device from a washing machine, was removed and there is a vacant space at the centre of the finished work. This is essentially an assemblage of the signs and symbols of contemporary American consumer culture.

Hamilton was experimenting with imagery which he thought encapsulated life in the late 1950s. He wrote a detailed analysis of the work for Architectural Design magazine in 1962, entitled ‘An Exposition of $he’ in which he stated: ‘Contemporary art reacts slowly to the contemporary stylistic scene. How many major works of art have appeared in the twentieth century in which an automobile figures at all? How many feature vacuum cleaners? Not only the mainspring of our twentieth century economy but its most prolific image-maker the automobile industry is well with us, its attitude to form colouring our lives profusely. It adopts its symbols from many fields and contributes to the stylistic language of all consumer goods. It is presented to us by the ad-man in a rounded picture of urban living: a dream world, but the dream is deep and true - the collective desire of a culture translated into an image of fulfilment. Can it be assimilated into the fine art consciousness?’ (R. Hamilton, ‘An exposition of $he’, Architectural Design, October 1962, pp. 485-486).

The confidence to work with such provocative material for a fine art object was inspired and informed by Hamilton’s time with the Independent Group. It met at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London during 1952-55 and Hamilton was a stalwart member. Fellow artists such as Eduardo Paolozzi and John McHale; critics including Lawrence Alloway and Reyner Banham and the architects, Alison and Peter Smithson all adored the rich and vibrant popular culture of America at that time. The Group succeeded in applying a critical framework to advertising, product design, Hollywood film and popular music. Indeed, at this point by ‘Pop Art’ the Independent Group meant popular culture. Members of the group also believed that fine art should be placed along a continuum, on the same level as popular culture, demolishing traditional, cultural hierarchies. The Group shared a common interest in the possibilities of collage, using imagery taken largely from glossy, colour American advertising. John McHale and Eduardo Paolozzi, as well as Hamilton, experimented with this format with notable examples including Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?, 1956, (Zundel Collection, Kunsthalle Tübingen, Germany) by Hamilton, often cited as the first work of Pop Art in the world.

Study For $he builds on this latter work, but is less a superficial collection of images of objects cut out and placed in an imaginary ideal home, and is a more detached and analytical work. The study constitutes a close and serious reading of the visual world using the apparatus of iconography. This resulted in Hamilton experimenting with the deconstruction of the realm of advertising and the visual allure of consumer goods, in an approach inspired by Marcel Duchamp and Surrealism. He succeeded in taking apart and reassembling his chosen imagery to produce a complex and multi-layered work, which teases apart the sophisticated language of advertising. As fellow Independent Group member, Lawrence Alloway, commented in 1962: ‘$he extends the most elliptical sign language of the art world (minted by Marcel Duchamp) to consumer goods. The painting is characterised by the cool, clean hygienic surfaces of kitchen equipment and the detailing has the crisp, fine point of ads or explanatory booklets on the products that Hamilton is painting’ (L. Alloway, ‘Artists as Consumers’, Image, No. 3, 1961, pp. 14-19).

We are very grateful to Professor Anne Massey for preparing this catalogue entry.

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