Richard Hamilton ‘For the Finest Art, Try Pop’, 1961

To read the text, click here.

This text briefly explores the meaning and uses of fine art, or more so, the loss of use for fine art, and how it has become useful once again through the Dada and Pop movements. Hamilton begins by explaining , arts use was the ‘pictorial recording of visual facts’, until the invention of photography which then became the default medium for recording visual facts.

Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Victoria and the Princess Royal c.1845

Without a use, decoration became one of art’s few remaining functions. Below is a painting by Van Gogh in 1889 (Impressionism).

Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night

Hamilton then goes on to say ‘some painters are now agog at the ability…to project… the classic themes of artistic vision and to express them in a poetic language’, he compares the Playboy ‘Playmate of the month’ pin-up as the contemporary equivalent of the odalisque (female slave) in painting.

Not only was art not ‘useful’ anymore, but social comment was left to TV and the comic strip.

This 1960 sketch tackles the issue of racism.

Cinema took over story telling roll.

Robin Hood and Maid Marian, 1866

Poster for the 1938 film 'The Adventures of Robin Hood'

Then along came two art movements; Dadaism and Futurism which re-introduced opinions on society through art. Dada’s purpose was to ridicule what its participants considered to be the meaninglessness of the modern world.

Mechanical Head, Raoul Hausmann, 1920

The above photo depicts Hausmann’s view of war-driven society within his artwork ‘Mechanical Head’

Elasticity by Umberto Boccioni, 1912

Futurists had a much more positive way of dealing with society, demanding change rather than undermining the views of society as the Dadaists did.


Hamilton finally goes on to say how Pop Art is the son of Dada in the way that it rebels against society as Dadaism did.

Just What Is It That Makes Today's Home So Different, So Appealing?, Richard Hamilton, 1956,

So in conclusion, Hamilton has suggested that Fine Art’s use was lost with the dawn of photography, but now in the age of Pop, a new purpose is found by making statements on society and in this case popular culture. This explains the essay title ‘For the Finest Art, Try Pop’.

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