The Late Works
National Gallery Company | ISBN 9781857095487
Paperback – 64 pages
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For decades the most continually provocative of British artists, Richard Hamilton (1922-2011) was long concerned with the great themes of Western painting. At the time of his death, he was completing plans for an exhibition at the National Gallery to include the first public showing of what turned out to be his final work. Based on Balzac's short story, "The Unknown Masterpiece", it depicts three masters of painting, Poussin, Courbet and the aged Titian deriving from famous self-portraits, contemplating a reclining female nude, itself based on a 19th-century photograph, and reflecting on art, beauty and desire. As with much of Hamilton's late work, the image was generated by computer but over-painted by hand. Knowing he would not complete it, Hamilton decided to show three preparatory versions simultaneously. He selected about 30 paintings that trace the development of his art from the mid-1960s to this final enigmatic meditation. These works introduce several master themes of Hamilton's art, including single-point perspective and the depiction of interior spaces, the sacred imagery of the Italian Renaissance, and allusions to the art of Marcel Duchamp of whom Hamilton was an early proponent. Based on unpublished letters and conversations, this publication looks at Hamilton's long relationship with the National Gallery and how he shaped his final artistic statement for it.