Richard Hamilton - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, December 11, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Eric Franck Fine Art, London & Geneva
    Waddington Galleries Ltd., London

  • Exhibited

    Galerie Rene Block, Berlin, Cosmetic Studies, January 1970
    Tate Gallery, London Richard Hamilton, 12 March - 19 April 1970 no. 166 (illustrated p.89), this exhibition later travelled to Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, May-June 1970, and Kunsthalle, Bern, July-August 1970
    Solomon R. Guggenheim Musem, New York, Richard Hamilton, September-November 1973 no. 130 (illustrated in colour p.77)
    Kunsthalle, Bielefeld, Richard Hamilton, Studies-Studien 1937-1977, April-May 1978 (illustrated p.170), this exhibition later travelled to Kunsthalle, Tübingen, May-June 1978 and Kunstverein, Göttingen, June-July 1978

  • Literature

    Richard Morphet, Richard Hamilton, The Tate Gallery London, 1970 (pp. 86-91)

  • Catalogue Essay

    "The artist's job has always been to select and reassemble elements from a chancing, chaotic, experience of the world. In creating order, coherence and stability from the flux of experience the artist produces an icon - an epiphany. He has to grab, to formalize, some instant of enlightenment."
    Richard Hamilton

    In a 1957 letter to Alison and Peter Smithson, the famous British architects who were also central figures in the avant-garde cultural scene in 1950s London, Richard Hamilton famously defined the term ‘Pop’ as 'popular, transient, expendable, low cost, mass produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous and big business'. It is these contrasting, yet irrefutably intertwined characteristics that are so prevalent in his Fashion-Plate (Cosmetic Study IX): the ninth unique work from Hamilton’s 1969 series of Cosmetic Studies I-XII, which were the highlight of Hamilton’s 1970 Tate Gallery retrospective.

    These twelve, unique works combine lithograph, collage, paint and cosmetics to create a series of exceptional ‘Fashion Plate’ portraits. Hamilton combines high art with the materials and forms of mass commercial culture, demonstrating his obsession with assimilating genres of basic visual phenomena into fine art. In this way, the series of Cosmetic Studies illustrate the constant tension, inherent to Hamilton’s artistic practice, between his concern for unity and the desire to inject his works with an energetic sense of discrepancy and ambiguity between the composite elements. Hamilton experiments with the Cosmetic Studies, as he continued to do so with his 1990s Interior series, to determine how manipulated the multiple view-points and substitutions can become whilst still remaining plausible to the eye. Hamilton recognized this struggle of fine-tuning his works when he commented in 1984 that “A print is a public commitment, it must be resolved, perfected and finalized.”

    Although in the completed works Hamilton makes this fine line between distortion and harmony look effortless, three preliminary examinations for the Cosmetic Studies series, illustrate the difficulty in achieving this balance. The three preliminary works introduce the diagrammatic eye, and the collaged mouth and neck, which recur in Cosmetic Studies IV-XII, and demonstrate Hamilton’s struggle with the treatment of the eyes in the Cosmetic Studies subject: one eye taken from a single source gave the face too much specificity, whilst two eyes from separate sources were difficult to integrate satisfactorily.

    In Cosmetic Study IX, Hamilton spectacularly overcomes these difficulties of composition and appropriation, whilst maintaining the energy created by this tension to create a particularly arresting example of Hamilton’s obsession with the immediate juxtaposition of contrasting visual languages. Set within the white vortex of a lithographed background depicting an empty studio (belonging to Hamilton’s friend, the photographer Tony Evans) the mouth and lips of the model Veruschka von Lehndorff are printed in grey, before layers of disparate facial features are added. These features were taken from Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar magazines, as well as from the art of Hamilton’s contemporaries, with the right eye of Roy Lichtenstein’s Crying Girl, 1963 performing as an anchor in the surrounding halo of facial parts and unexpected explosions of colourful paint and cosmetics. By composing Cosmetic Study IX as a single portrait from elements of many separate heads and bodies, Hamilton reveals his compulsive merging of disparate elements into new wholes.

    As so often in Hamilton’s work, a wider sensory experience is conveyed than is literally shown, and Cosmetic Study IX offers far more than an illustration of Hamilton’s carefully controlled collision between the sensual and the mass produced. At once expressionless and vulnerable, Hamilton’s portrait defines a malaise undermining the glacial poise of a serene couture model. His constructed icon exposes the heady, glamorous, yet also isolating and artificial language of contemporary fashion culture. The exquisite melancholy of Cosmetic Study IX’s plaintive expression, driven by Lichtenstein’s famous tearful eye, and the reserved, pursed mouth of Veruschka von Lehndorff compels the viewer to invent their own narrative for Hamilton’s imagined sitter. The poignancy of expression and luxury of colour and expressive mark-making on the paper, set against the muted hardware of the photographer’s studio, create a powerful and inviting portrait transcending the assembled parts from which it was constructed. As John Russell argues in the exhibition catalogue for the 1973 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Richard Hamilton exhibition, it is Richard Hamilton who “distils the eternal from the transitory” and takes as his material “the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is the eternal and the immutable.”


Fashion-Plate (Cosmetic Study IX)

Lithograph with collage, acrylic, pastel and cosmetics on Fabriano paper, with full margins, from a series of 12 unique works,
I. 74.5 x 60 cm (29 3/8 x 23 5/8 in.)
S. 100 x 70 cm (39 3/8 x 27 1/2 in.)

signed and titled 'Fashion-plate (cosmetic study IX)' in pencil on the reverse, in very good condition, framed.

£150,000 - 200,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £314,500

Contact Specialist
Robert Kennan
Editions, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4075

Evening & Day Editions

London 12 December 2013 2pm & 6pm