The Art of the Map - Richard Hamilton
How the pop artist used the world’s most hotly contested territory as the basis for his work, Maps of Palestine
Part of the charm of pop art lies in the way it elevated everyday images to the status of fine art. Warhol’s Soup Cans is the most obvious example of this process, yet the British pop artist Richard Hamilton also transmuted scrapbook collages, Braun advertisements and oversized lapel badges into works of art.
A simple map might seem too fusty a subject to catch Hamilton’s eye, yet when the territory covered charts one of the most protracted geographical and political stories of the twentieth century, you can begin to appreciate its attraction.
As part of our series on artists who've incorporated maps into their practice, today we're focusing on Hamilton’s 2011 Maps of Palestine, which is featured in our new book Map: Exploring the World. It depicts the growth of Israel at the expense of the Palestinian territory. The artist selected four moments to represent the process: Palestine before the foundation of Israel; the lines of the UN Partition plan of 1947; the Rhodes armistice line of 1949, drawn after the Arab-Israeli War of 1948; and the Israeli incursions into Palestinian territory between 1967 and 2008.
Hamilton’s original work involved only two images – from 1947 and 2010 – but this expanded version increases its stop-motion, snapshot quality. The artist was struck by both the importance of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the fact that all events that shaped Israel had taken place within his own lifetime. Hamilton, who died shortly after he completed this work, began his career as an engineering draughtsman, and his technical background is evident in the precision and apparent neutrality of what is in fact an intentionally inflammatory, politically inspired image.