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A selection of prints by Richard Hamilton acquired via the Acceptance in Lieu scheme goes on display at the British Museum today

  • Date: 13 June 2014
  • Area: National
'Going to dark bed'; illustration for James Joyce's Ulysses, 1949, by Richard Hamilton (1922 - 2011), pen and ink and wash on paper.

'Going to dark bed'; illustration for James Joyce's Ulysses, 1949, by Richard Hamilton (1922 - 2011), pen and ink and wash on paper.. Credit: © Estate of Richard Hamilton

A substantial collection of drawings and prints by Richard Hamilton (1922-2011), one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century, has been accepted from the artist’s estate by H M Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the British Museum. A selection of around 20 of the works will be on display in Room 90 of the British Museum from today – 13 June.

Hamilton is best known for his work as a pop artist in the 1960s, and spent fifty years giving visual expression to his love of James Joyce’s great modernist masterpiece, Ulysses. The collection consists of over 90 works on paper, the earliest of which date from 1948. Hamilton returned to the subject in the early 1980s and in the next two decades produced over 60 drawings as well as studies and preparatory states before the final etchings. In 2002 the British Museum curated a landmark exhibition ‘Imaging Ulysses’ which featured many of these works. After the exhibition, Richard Hamilton donated eight of the final etchings to the British Museum. This allocation from the AIL scheme has transformed the Museum’s holdings of Hamilton’s works.

The collection is in many ways the odyssey of Richard Hamilton’s own artistic career and reflects his life-long interest in Irish culture and politics and his unique artistic experimentation. Its stylistic variety provides visual paraphrases of Joyce’s own linguistic inventiveness and demonstrates Hamilton’s skills as a draughtsman and printmaker.

Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair Arts Council England said:
‘The importance of these works cannot be underestimated. Richard Hamilton has proven to be one of the most significant British artists of the latter half of the 20th century, with two major exhibitions of his work taking place this year alone. The Arts Council is proud that the AIL scheme has contributed to this amazing collection entering the British Museum where it can now be enjoyed by literally thousands of visitors.’

The acceptance of the collection satisfied £927,500 of tax. A selection of the works will be on display in Room 90 of the British Museum from today in advance of ‘Bloomsday’ (16 June): a commemoration and celebration of the life of Joyce during which the events of Ulysses are relived. All of the works can be found on the Museum’s website.

The Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) scheme is administered by the Arts Council and the AIL Panel, chaired by Edward Harley, advises ministers on the suitability of items offered in lieu.

Links and further information

View more images from the collection

Find out more on the British Museum's website

Find out more about the Acceptance in Lieu scheme

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