‘In the late Fifties, I made three pictures: Hommage à Chrysler Corp, Pin-up (now in the collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art), and Hers is a Lush Situation. They were the three best things I’ve ever done. I was really inventing something, and it was quite a serious business. At the time, nobody was doing anything like that’ (R. Hamilton, quoted in A. Sooke, ‘Richard Hamilton: British Visionary’, in The Telegraph, 13 September 2011).
‘The fine art odalisque has become a “Pin-up”. This temptress recalls Matisse and his flat paint surfaces, the restricted colour range of flesh tints Picasso, and there is a conscious analogy with works by Renoir and Pascin’ (J. Darby, ‘Pin-up’ in Richard Hamilton, exh. cat., Tate, London, 1992, p. 153).
Executed in 1960, Richard Hamilton’s Pin-up Sketch V is one of a handful of studies that the artist made for his celebrated 1961 collage Pin-up, currently housed in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Created during the early stages of Hamilton’s career, the work demonstrates the artist’s fascination with the iconography of the female nude at the dawn of the age of mass-production. Updating a traditional fine art motif via the language of contemporary pop culture, Hamilton drew inspiration from the models, showgirls and pin-ups found in men’s magazines of the 1950s and 1960s. ‘Girlie pictures were the source of Pin-up’, the artist later explained; ‘not only the sophisticated and often exquisite photographs in Playboy magazine’ but also those seductive images ‘found in such pulp equivalents as Beauty Parade’ (R. Hamilton, quoted in Richard Hamilton, exh. cat., Tate, London, 1970, p. 39). Following on from the landmark works Hommage à Chrysler Corp (1957) and Hers is a Lush Situation (1958), Pin-up mines the repository of sexualized female imagery that filtered throughout contemporary media. Together, Hamilton recalled, these works ‘were the three best things I’ve ever done. I was really inventing something, and it was quite a serious business. At the time, nobody was doing anything like that’ (R. Hamilton, quoted in A. Sooke, ‘Richard Hamilton: British Visionary’, in The Telegraph, 13 September 2011). A pivotal piece in the transatlantic development of Pop Art, Pin-up anticipates the work of Tom Wesselmann, who began his series of Great American Nudes in 1961, as well as Roy Lichtenstein, whose depictions of the female nude were born of a similar source archive. The present sketch is not only a superb example of Hamilton’s early graphic style, combining ink, gouache, watercolour and pencil, is also the most complete study for the final version of Pin-up. Exhibited alongside the collage at the first of Hamilton’s retrospectives at Tate, London, in 1970, Pin-up Sketch V is an important historical document that charts the creation of one of the artist’s most significant works.
Alongside its references to contemporary erotica, Pin-up Sketch V is also rooted in the language of fashion illustration that informed much of Hamilton’s practice. During the 1940s, Hamilton had the opportunity to join a group of fashion art students in a studio set up by Vogue. The stances, gestures and postures of fashion drawing provided the artist with a readymade vernacular from which to expand his investigations of the female nude. Following on from his successful installation Man, Machine and Motion at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, in 1955, Hommage à Chrysler Corp and Hers is a Lush Situation had examined the relationship between women and machinery, highlighting the almost erotic charge that advertising attributed to everyday objects. This aesthetic would be taken up again in $he (1958-61), completed during the same period. Though Pin-up engages the same issues of feminine objectification, it stands apart from these works in its more conscious appeal to the art-historical lineage of the female nude. The work invites strong comparisons with Matisse, in particular his Seated Odalisque, 1926 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). As Jacqueline Darby writes, Hamilton’s ‘temptress’ also evokes ‘the restricted colour range of flesh tints Picasso, and there is a conscious analogy with works by Renoir and Pascin’. At the same time, she writes, ‘The treatment of the motif recalls … Duchamp’s theme of the Bride stripped bare. The striptease image alludes simultaneously to the denuding of the consumerist myth and the “stripping bare” of styles of pictorial representation’ (J. Darby, ‘Pin-up’ in Richard Hamilton, exh. cat., Tate, London, 1992, p. 153). Indeed, the final version of Pin-up ultimately explodes the aesthetic categories of Hamilton’s predecessors, presenting a collage of different media and styles. The breasts are both drawn and modelled in three-dimensional relief, the bra is a photographic appliqué and the hair is graphically simplified like a cartoon. As Hamilton has said, ‘Mixing idioms is virtually a doctrine in Pin-up’ (R. Hamilton, quoted at http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=79789 [accessed 6 May 2015]).