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Three studies of Bloom, 1949-73
Soft-ground etching, etched roulette, and dry roulette on Hosho Japanese paper
Plates 6 x 13 in. / 15 × 33 cm (overall)
Paper 13.7 x 18.5 in. / 34.8 × 47 cm
“Paul’s proof” written lower right in pencil. Signed and titled lower right in pencil. Edition 28 with 3 artist’s proofs: this copy an Artist’s proof. Printed by Hartmut Frielinghaus, Hamburg. Published by Petersburg Press, New York. A few impressions were made of individual plates in 1949; the three plates were printed together in 1973.
Richard Hamilton began studying James Joyce’s novel Ulysses (1922) during his national service in 1947. Hamilton was inspired by the idea of illustrating Joyce’s complex, experimental novel in and began making sketches the following year, only to put the project to one side in 1950, with no publisher willing to front the exorbitant cost of resetting the novel for illustrations. It was not until 1981 that he made the decision to create one illustration for each of the novel’s eighteen chapters, and a nineteenth image – a portrait of one of the novel’s main protagonists, Leopold Bloom – destined as a frontispiece. He conceived these images as large intaglio prints in a range of styles. “Three small portraits of Bloom” were the only etchings made in 1949 from the preparatory Ulysses drawings and watercolors of this period, although all of them had etching in mind. A few proofs of Bloom were pulled as experiments in different intaglio methods in 1949. The large-scale intaglio portrait was finally achieved in 1983. Eventually, the artist came to the conclusion that the illustrations should not be incorporated into a new edition of the novel, and the works were not exhibited until 2001.
In the artist’s words: “The process of studying Joyce diligently was to provide me with not only subject matter, but it also demonstrated a stylistic and technical freedom that might be applied to painting. Joyce, with his mastery of all styles and his virtuosity in weaving them into a rich tapestry, was the exemplar that later gave me confidence to try some unlikely associations in paint. Each of the twelve chapters of Ulysses is treated differently … None of the episodes is so complex as the ‘Oxen of the Sun’, in which the birth of a child in the Horne’s house, a lying-in hospital, is echoed in the text by the birth of language, and its historic progress, in a procession of English prose styles from Latinate incantation through Anglo-Saxon, Mandeville, Morte d’Arthur, Milton, Swift, Pater, etc. to the slang of 1906.”
Text from Stephen Coppel, ‘Imaging Ulysses: Richard Hamilton’, London, BM, published by the British Council, 2002, cat.no.29:
Condition: Upper right corner paper is thinned. Upper left corner is creased. Horizontal crease running from left to right edge, with two other creases running from right edge to upper edge, bisected by two 1.5” vertical creases.