British artist Richard Hamilton (b. 1922) was interested in the influence of advertising on how people think, and liked to blend popular images and fine art.
In the above collage "Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes so Different, So Appealing?"*, Hamilton mixed elements from the mass media (television, theatre, newspapers), advertising (for Tootsie Pops, Armour hams, and Ford cars, among other things) and pop culture (like a famous bodybuilder, a former pin-up, and a “Young Romance” comic book).
(*Adapted from Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, Eleventh Edition, Harcourt College Publishers, p.1091)
Tasks and Activities
Studying a Work of Art
Take a close look at the collage and make a list of things you see which might make a 1956 home “so appealing”, but which are uninteresting or outdated today. What are their modern counterparts, if they have any? Make a list using bullet points.
Make a Collage for Today
- Either electronically (using the Internet) or using some glossy magazines you can cut out of, create a collage for the 2000s with Richard Hamilton’s Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes so Different, So Appealing? as your inspiration. Make sure to include central elements like references to mass media (television, Internet, etc.), advertising and pop culture, or other objects representing common values in today’s society.
- Show your collage to someone - your classmates or teacher, etc., and explain it to them. You might also want to get their feedback or start a discussion about values in today’s society.
- If Hamilton made his collage today, do you think he would use paper cut-outs, or do you think he would use computer graphics? Why?
- With a partner, write a dialogue between two people looking at this collage in a museum and act it out.
- Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes so Different, So Appealing? is an unusual title for a work of art. It was supposedly taken from an article in a 1950’s women’s magazine. What is different or unusual about the title, and why does it work so well, in your opinion?
- Can you come up with an alternative title?
Choose one of the following:
- Write a script for a TV advertisement with “Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?” as its opening line. Remember to think of a suitable product that you are trying to sell. Keep in mind that you want to send the message that it is your product which makes a home of today appealing and different.
- Imagining that you are 50 years in the future, write a text (article, essay, poem, short story or some other genre of your choice) titled “What it is that makes today's homes so appealing”.
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