Richard Hamilton , the most influential British artist of the 20th century, has died aged 89.
In his long, productive life he created the most important and enduring works of any British modern painter.
This may sound a surprising claim. We have our national icons and our pop celebrities. But neither Francis Bacon nor Lucian Freud nor Damien Hirst has shaped modern art as Hamilton did when he put a lolly with the word POP on it in the hand of a muscleman in his 1956 collage, Just What is it that Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?
Hamilton has a serious claim to be the inventor of pop art: this collage is a visionary, yet ironic, manifesto for a new art that would be at home in the modern world. For him, in a postwar Britain of austerity measures, pop was a utopian ideal. Big, fast cars were the metal angels of a smooth, beautiful future.
I have been driven by Hamilton in his huge, sleek car. The experience was like stepping into one of his paintings. He drove me to his house, a modern dream home decorated with the works of Marcel Duchamp – or rather, Hamilton’s own replicas personally approved by the maverick dadaist chess player.
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