This is an original study for a series of 90 prints which Richard Hamilton published in 1979. In this work the artist has built up an image on a printed cream background, with original acrylic painted squares and papier collé elements added onto the surface. There is also evidence of pencil marks and a characteristic precision in the cutting of these shapes, belying Hamilton’s background in engineering drawing. The subsequent series of prints were distributed by Waddingtons Graphics in London and created as a collotype in six colours and screen-printed from six stencils. Hamilton was always fascinated by the technical production of his multiple images and he worked on the collotype printing with Heinz Häfner and the screen-printing was undertaken at Frank Kicherer, Stuttgart.
This work is an example of the artist’s continued interest in images of the interior. Beginning with Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? of 1956, Hamilton explored the representation of the public and private interior by means of collage, typically placed on an existing background with additional marks made by the artist. The Interior I and Interior II paintings of 1964 further developed the theme of the interior, this time taken from a film still, with a classic chair design; Charles and Ray Eames ‘La Fonda’ seen from the back. In this study for Putting on de Stijl, Hamilton takes his two pieces of classic design from the De Stijl movement. Founded in 1917 in Holland by painter Piet Mondrian and designer Gerrit Rietveld, the movement published its own magazine as a form of manifesto which emphasised the importance of using a pure palette of red, blue and yellow. In Dutch, De Stijl means ‘the style’ and the members of the group argued for the supremacy of their pared down aesthetic.
Hamilton pays homage to the movement in both the title of the work and its aesthetic. ‘Putting on de Stijl’ is a play on the title "Puttin' On the Style" a number one hit for the British skiffle artist, Lonnie Donegan in 1957 and it is a typical trope of Hamilton’s to include popular culture references in his work. Hamilton has emulated the limited De Stijl colour range in this study, with floating planes of red, white and blue. The chair represented on the right is Rietveld’s Zig-Zig chair of circa 1932-34 shown in unpainted, plain wood. On the left is another Rietveld design, the Hogestoel or Highback Chair, designed in 1919. More complex than the Zig-Zag chair, the planes which form the back support and seat are wooden, and blue has been added to the edges of the skeletal construction, to complement the coloured planes which forms the structure of the work. The grey, black, white and red geometric forms at the base of the painting, creates a floor on which the two chairs stand. The intersection with a wall is then suggested by the yellow, black and grey squares which constitutes a backdrop to the composition. The overwhelming feel is of a De Stijl universe, with seating and exploding Mondrian squares.
De Stijl was a key interest for Hamilton in 1979, and he produced another print based on a collage, Interior with monochromes in the same year. This work features the ‘Red/Blue’ chair of 1919 by Rietveld in the same red, blue and yellow colourways. The image of the chair was cut out from a series of printed images, which Hamilton also used for Putting on de Stijl.
We are very grateful to Professor Anne Massey for preparing this catalogue entry.