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Hamilton after Venturi Scott Brown and Saenredam

There is a very small room in the National Gallery that contains a selection of Flemish architectural paintings. There is something surprisingly domestic about Pieter Saenredam’s interior painting of the Grote Kirk at Haarlem. A small dog is looking for attention adjacent to a seated woman with basket and pot.

Fifty meters to the west of this room one arrives at the top of the long processional staircase that leads to the galleries of Venturi Scott Brown’s Sainsbury’s Wing. Here formality is a much more necessary requirement. Today, religious iconography cannot be viewed in a relaxed setting. A request to take a photograph of the post-modern column-arched corridor through the exhibition rooms is denied. I take one anyway – oops, my finger slipped – but the result is blurred.

Richard Hamilton has merged these two scenes in his own painting, The Saensbury Wing. The architecture has been adjusted and straightened ridding us of any unnecessary detail. Tracery and shadow gaps are of no interest to Hamilton, this is a painting about his legacy. Instead we are treated to the naked image of his beautiful wife and his celebrated painting of shit smeared prison walls in the distance. However, the panting dog is nowhere to be seen.

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