Release Richard Hamilton

Screenprint from one photographic and 16 hand-cut stencils and collage Estate of Richard Hamilton Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn

This work is one of a series of prints made by Richard Hamilton based upon a group of paintings from the late sixties entitled Swingeing London 67. These paintings were a response to the arrest and imprisonment of Hamilton’s art dealer Robert Fraser (1937-86) in 1967 for drug possession. The paintings are all based on the same image – a photograph of Robert Fraser and the rock star Mick Jagger in the back of a police car being taken from jail to court. The photo was published in the Daily Sketch newspaper on 29 June 1967 and shows the two men, handcuffed together, trying to shield their faces from the press photographers. Hamilton felt strongly that the punishment of Fraser, nicknamed ‘Groovy Bob’ for his role as a trendsetter around which a lively social scene orbited, was inappropriate.

In 1982 Hamilton wrote in Collected Words: “I had felt a strong personal indignation at the insanity of legal institutions which could jail anyone for the offence of self-abuse with drugs. The sentence in the case of my friend Robert Fraser was blatantly not intended to help him through a sickness, it was to be a notorious example to others. As the judge declared ‘There are times when a swingeing sentence can act as a deterrent’. There were several moves towards the subject at the time of Robert’s arrest in 1967. Gradually, the sense of outrage subsided into quiet deliberations on the technical requirements of the expression of that anger.”

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