Study for $he
Gouache, watercolour, ink and pencil on paper with perforated left edge. 25.7 x 19.5 cm. Framed under glass. - Sheet mounted on backing card.
From 1958 to 1961, Richard Hamilton worked on the iconic painting ‘$he’, which blends oil painting, airbrush and collage (it was initially a gift to his painting colleague William N. Copley, and since 1970 in the holdings of the Tate Gallery, London). In ‘$he’, the artist explores the favoured theme of the connection between modern consumerist-oriented domesticity and female identity. The fragmented silhouette of a woman – half pin-up with voluptuous curves and exposed shoulders, half housewife with apron – is staged with set pieces of household appliances from contemporaneous advertisements.
The ‘Study for $he’ offered here is one of four preliminary studies in which Hamilton prepares the pictorial elements. The model for the female figure was a photo of the actress Vikki Dougan who caused a stir in 1950s Hollywood with her extremely provocatively fashioned clothing. The development of a central pictorial idea, the skilful reinterpretation of the extremely low-cut back of Dougan’s dress into the form of a small apron, becomes clear – a motivic coup that is given particular emphasis in the executed painting.
“In spite of their contrived sophistication, my paintings are, for me, curiously ingenuous (like Marilyn Monroe). At first sight it is easy to mistake their intention as satirical. It looks as though […] the painting is a sardonic comment on our society. But I would like to think of my purpose as a search for what is epic in everyday objects and everyday attitudes. Irony has no place in it except in so far as irony is part of the ad man's repertoire”, Hamilton describes his artistic intention (quoted from: exhib.cat. Richard Hamilton, Tate Gallery, London 1970, p.38).
‘Study for $he’ has a significant provenance. The work was a gift from the artist to Joseph Beuys and has since been in the collection of the Beuys family; it has been prominently exhibited several times.
Gift from the artist to Joseph Beuys; Collection Eva and Joseph Beuys, Dusseldorf
Richard Hamilton, Retrospective, Paintings and drawings 1937 to 2002, exhib.cat. MACBA, Barcelona and Museum Ludwig, Cologne 2003, exhib.cat.no.83 with col. illus. (therein titled: Study for $he III)
Bielefeld 1978 (Kunsthalle), Tubingen (Kunsthalle), Goettingen (Kunstverein), Richard Hamilton, Studies, Studien, 1937-1977, exhib.cat.no.66, p.109 with illus.
New York 1973 (The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum), Munich 1974 (Städtische Galerie in Lenbachhaus), Tubingen (Kunsthalle), Richard Hamilton, exhib.cat.no.29, p.30 with illus. (label verso of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum)
London 1970 (The Tate Gallery), Richard Hamilton, exhib.cat.no.37, p.37 with illus. (label verso)
London (Robert Fraser Gallery) (label verso)