One of the most influential British artists of the twentieth century, Richard Hamilton’s varied work encompasses both pioneering pop art collages and highly political subject matter. This portrait of Hugh Gaitskell (1906–63) is one of his well-known satirical works. Gaitskell was Leader of the Labour Party in opposition for seven years and was regarded by Hamilton as a ‘political monster’ due to his vacillation over forming a clear anti-nuclear policy. In this work, an enlarged newspaper photograph of Gaitskell has been fused with a fictional monster derived from a Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine cover of the actor Claude Rains in make-up for the 1943 film of The Phantom of the Opera. Hamilton also sourced other horror film images for the painting: the head, cut off above the eyebrows, is a reference to a film-still of a man-monster from The Creature with the Atom Brain (1955), while the bloodshot eyeball derives from a 1959 film of Jack the Ripper. An advocate of nuclear disarmament, Hamilton regarded this painting as a tribute to his first wife, Terry, an ardent CND activist, who died in a car accident in 1962.
- Artwork Details: 61 x 61cm
- Material description: oil and collage on photograph on panel
- Credit line: Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © Estate of Richard Hamilton. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2015
- Theme: Portrait
- Medium: Painting
- Accession number: AC 724