The National Gallery is seen as a bastion of classical art, and the inclusion of anything newer than the early 20th Century in its permanent collection could be seen as sacrilegious. It’s temporary displays have no such limitations, as seen in the inclusion of major contemporary artists in the recent Titian exhibition.
This display of the late Richard Hamilton’s work continues an exploration of how modern artists have been influenced by the paintings in the National Gallery. Hamilton merges the use of traditional oil paints with photography and computer modelling to create futuristic and clinical interpretations of Renaissance works.
A playful sense of humour is evident in his version of Van Eyck’s Arnolfini painting, in which the Renaissance couple hold a copy of their half-finished portrait, yet it’s clear that the work they’re clutching is much more contemporary than 15th century painters could have dared to dream up. Despite this cheeky juxtaposition, Hamilton’s works are often filled with sharp clinical lines that may leave visitors feeling cold.
Hamilton’s approach to the nude is unique. Rather than having his models pose, he captures them while going about their lives — thus adding a sense of the surreal to his work.
Despite being considered one of the founders of the pop art movement, Hamilton continued to experiment with various techniques until his death last year. This exhibition is a chance to see Hamilton’s tribute to the Renaissance, in which he has merged mediums to create visually striking artworks.
Richard Hamilton: The Late Works is on display at the National Gallery, Sunley Room until 13 January. Admission is free.