Richard Hamilton, British Artist Who Beat Warhol to Pop, Dies at 89

Richard Hamilton, the painter and collagist whose work became afulcrum of the British Pop art canon, passed away at the age of 89 thismorning. The artist's death was announced by the Gagosian Gallery,which represents his work. No cause was released.

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Hamilton began studying painting in night courses at St. Martin's School of Art while holding down work as a draftsman and industrial designer. He soon entered the Royal Academy schools and taught at St. Martin's following the Second World War. As a member of the British Independent Group, Hamilton was a leader in the early Pop movement, pioneering the re-appropriation of images from magazines and other forms of print advertising in painting and sculpture.

Known for his powerful and inventive work that commented on the state ofBritish postwar consumer culture, Hamilton was probably most famous for"Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?",a 1956 collage installation of a bodybuilder and model planted in a middle-class living room. Predating Andy Warhol's experiments with Pop themes by nearly a decade, the work was featured in the "This is Tomorrow" show at the Whitechapel Gallery and made Hamilton aninternational star. A teaching post at the Royal College of Art followed, where his mentees included David Hockney and Peter Blake.

Hamilton was outspoken politically, and frequently incorporated social activism into his artistic practice. In 1964, he painted a portrait thatsatirized then Labour Party leader Hugh Gaitskell for rejecting apolicy of nuclear disarmament, and between 1981 and 1983 he created a trilogy of paintings based on the treatment of political prisoners by the Irish Republican Army.

Before his death on Tuesday, Hamilton was actively working on a retrospective that was expected to travel to Los Angeles, Philadelphia, London, and Madrid from 2013 to 2014. In its statement, Gagosian Galleryhighlighted Hamilton's "sense of humor, energy, sparkle and modesty that was his innate character." Larry Gagosian is quoted saying, "This is a very sad day for all of us and our thoughts are with Richard's family, particularly his wife Rita and his son Rod."

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