Art: Richard Hamilton ‘The Late Works’

'Passage of the Angel to the Virgin, 2007'

‘Passage of the Angel to the Virgin, 2007’

On a rainy Sunday afternoon in London, there aren’t many better ways to pass a happy few hours than wandering around the National Gallery. So, when I found a small exhibition focusing on the late works of Richard Hamilton, who died last year, I was far more cheerful than I thought I would be on such a miserable day!

As a crept round a starkly bare white corner, the first thing that struck me was the intimacy of the collection. The nudes of Hamilton’s work were made to feel all the more raw and immediate, so much so that my rather non-artistic boyfriend commented, in his own special way, ‘well… this is a bit awkward.’

This eery emptiness is perhaps all the more poignant when we consider that ‘Le Chef-d’oevre inconnu’, both unfinished and unseen until now, is the focal point at the end of this intriguing pathway of pictures.

What fascinates me about Hamilton’s work is his attitude towards nudity in art. His nude women, wandering around the canvas, staring out at the viewer, are portrayed with a frankness and honesty. But, this attitude contains an almost paradoxical edge of wholesomeness; a real sense of the organic nude somehow emerges from within the swathes of white. It is clear that Hamilton is interested in women; moreover, beautiful women for whom he portrays with a touch of desire. Yet the degeneracy we get from the nudes of, for example, Egon Schiele, is quite simply not there.

Perhaps it’s the Renaissance perspective employed in works like ‘The passage of the angel to the virgin’ and ‘The Seensbury Wing.’ Perhaps it’s the subtlety of light in ‘Bathroom fig.1 II’, with Malevich-like forms lurking by the sink. Either way, Hamilton’s works cement the beauty of the nude in contemporary art, defying certain Modernist vogues for perversion.

Above all, what I am trying to say (rather long-windedly), is that the exhibition is well worth a visit. It’s not big, and it’s not grand, but perhaps this is only appropriate to celebrate the life of such an understated yet beautiful artist.

'Bathroom- Fig.1, II', 2004.

‘Bathroom- Fig.1, II’, 2004.

'Hotel du Rhone', 2005.

‘Hotel du Rhone’, 2005.

 

Ally

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All image credits: The National Gallery

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