Portrait of Professor Martin Hammer

Professor Martin Hammer

Professor of History and Philosophy of Art

About

Martin arrived in Canterbury in September 2012, having been based for some years at the University of Edinburgh.  He was Head of the School of Arts at Kent from 2016 until 2019.

Martin’s current area of research is artistic and cultural exchange between the UK and the USA, with particular reference to the work produced in the 1960s by David Hockney.  The art of Francis Bacon was a previous research focus. The book Francis Bacon and Nazi Propaganda (2012) presented the artist as more engaged with the wider world than is usually acknowledged, concerned to articulate in his work what it felt like to witness the rise of Fascism in the 1930s, and then then the horrifying violence and the self-destruction that ensued when the Nazi craving for power turned into the pursuit of military conquest and the Final Solution.  A key focus to that end was the very distinctive way in which Bacon assimilated and transformed to his own pictorial and expressive ends ideas derived from many kinds of photography, as well as the work of other artists.  The same emphasis on transformation and adaptation underpins his work on Hockney.

Research interests

Having recently completed a series of publications centred on the art of Francis Bacon, I am now moving on to new projects.  My main focus is a collaboration with colleagues at Kent and elsewhere, working in film, literature, music, architecture and popular culture as well as on artistic developments, which addresses the theme of Transatlantic artistic relations since the Second World War, a period when Britain and the USA had a multitude of cultural, economic and political ties, and travel across the Atlantic became quick and cheap. There is great scope for considering in detail and depth how artists, critics, galleries and collectors responded to the other culture, with varying degrees of enthusiasm and antipathy, and conditioned by the mental and visual baggage they took with them.  The art of David Hockney in the 1960s is proving a wonderful case study for exploring such issues.

Teaching

I have taught many areas of British and International modernism, and feel that both I and my students benefit when course work is closely aligned to current research projects.  Recent and current modules have focussed on the art of Francis Bacon and on artistic exchange between the UK and the USA.  I also convene the Introduction to Art History module and the course on images of the body taught in our Kent in Paris MA programme.

Supervision

Having supervised several PhDs to completion, I would welcome approaches and applications in the areas of British and International art in the mid-20th century.

Since September 2012 I have been supervising James Finch's PhD on the art writing of the British art critic David Sylvester, under the terms of an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (co-supervisor: Dr Jennifer Mundy of Tate Research).

Publications

Artefact

  • von Jungenfeld, R. (2018). zones of flow (iii). [Light-sensitive Installation (documentation)].
    "zones of flow (iii)" is a photo-sensitive audiovisual installation that investigates the fluid connections between people, sea and land; the instantaneous but sometimes asynchronous connectivity between things and people as they move in and experience hybrid environments. A video projection depicting water surfaces is mapped onto a 2.5m paper-boat covered in light-dependent-resistors (LDR) which send signals to light-emitting-diodes (LED) inside smaller paper-boats. These small paper-boats are scattered across the floor serving as metaphorical water surface. This project has been developed in collaboration with the School of Engineering and Digital Arts’ technical support team and research students.

Article

  • Hammer, M. (2017). David Hockney’s Early Etchings: Going Transatlantic and Being British. Tate Pepers [Online]. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/27/david-hockney-etchings.
    David Hockney’s early autobiographical prints, My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean 1961 and the series A Rake’s Progress 1961–3, are examined in relation to contemporary developments in American art and literature, the artist’s affinities with his British modernist contemporaries and predecessors, and other aspects of his emerging sense of artistic and sexual identity.
  • Hammer, M. (2017). The photographic source and artistic affinities of David Hockney’s ‘A bigger splash’. Burlington Magazine [Online] 159:386-393. Available at: https://arthist.net/archive/15413/view=pdf.
  • Hammer, M. (2017). Between a Rock and a Blue Chair: David Hockney’s Rocky Mountains and Tired Indians (1965). British Art Studies [Online]. Available at: https://dx.doi.org/10.17658/issn.2058-5462/issue-05/mhammer.
    Travel and cultural exchange between the United Kingdom and the United States of America became a key feature of the 1960s, shaping the world view of many a British artist, curator, architect, writer, film-maker, and academic. Against that wider backdrop, I offer here a focused reading of David Hockney’s 1965 painting, Rocky Mountains and Tired Indians. With its faux-naive idiom and overt but quirkily un-modern American theme, the work conveys the artist’s singular take on what it felt like to be a Brit at large in the US, an environment at once wondrously exotic and at times strikingly banal. Close analysis discloses Hockney’s rich repertoire of artistic and literary allusions in Rocky Mountains, and the meanings and associations these may have encapsulated.
  • Hammer, M. (2015). There is no such thing as British Art. British Art Studies [web site]. Available at: http://www.britishartstudies.ac.uk/issues/issue-index/issue-1/conversation.
  • Hammer, M. (2014). The Independent Group take on Francis Bacon. Visual Culture in Britain [Online] 15:69-89. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14714787.2014.870369.
    This article takes its cue from Lawrence Alloway's comment that ‘Pop Art begins in London about 1949 with work by Francis Bacon’. It assembles documentary and visual evidence to support the argument that, notwithstanding the usual view that the older artist epitomized an aesthetic that the Independent Group was reacting against, Bacon’s art served in reality as a key inspiration and point of reference for Alloway’s criticism, and for the work of Independent Group practitioners, notably Richard Hamilton as he crystallized his artistic idiom in the mid-1950s.
  • Hammer, M. (2013). Kenneth Clark and the Death of Painting. Tate Papers [web site]. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/kenneth-clark-and-death-painting.
    Martin Hammer reviews Kenneth Clark’s public spat with Herbert Read about modern art, which erupted in successive issues of the Listener magazine in October 1935, situating the exchange within discourses about modernism and politics.
  • Hammer, M. (2013). Mainly Nourishment: Echoes of Sickert in the Work of Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. Visual Culture in Britain [Online] 14:87-100. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14714787.2013.750985.
  • Hammer, M. (2012). Francis Bacon: Back to Degas. Tate Papers [Article]. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/francis-bacon-back-degas.
    Providing the first focused account of Francis Bacon’s artistic dialogue with Edgar Degas, Martin Hammer argues that the French painter was a consistent source of inspiration to Bacon throughout his career, informing his decisions about subject matter, style and medium.
  • Hammer, M. (2012). ‘After Camden Town: Sickert’s Legacy since 1930’. The Camden Town Group in Context [Article]. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/camden-town-group/martin-hammer-after-camden-town-sickerts-legacy-since-1930-r1104349.
    In the years following the First World War the influence of Camden Town painting waned but later generations of British artists found inspiration in its approach to realism. Martin Hammer looks at the legacy of the Camden Town Group in the work of such artists as Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Richard Hamilton.
  • Hammer, M. (2010). Found in Translation: Chaim Soutine and English Art. Modernist Cultures [Online] 5:218-242. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/E2041102210000195.
    The article is the first to consider the impact of the early work of Chaim Soutine, produced in the South of France around 1920, on a circle of painters working in Britain some 30 years later, notably Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff, as well as on the writer David Sylvester who promoted both their work and the key French artists such as Alberto Giacometti and Soutine who seemed to epitomise the new ‘existentialist’ climate. After the war Soutine became a cult figure in London, as he did in contemporary Paris and New York. He embodied the idea of the ‘tragic’ artist in his still-life imagery of flayed animals, his uncompromising, heavily-laden paint surfaces, and in his identity as a Jew who had died in 1943, an indirect victim of the Nazi occupation of France. I try to identify which works in particular were known to the English artists, themselves all Jewish except for Bacon, and to describe the very different ways in which they reacted to Soutine's art and adapted its lessons to their own artistic purposes.
  • Hammer, M. (2010). Francis Bacon and the Lefevre Gallery. Burlington Magazine 152:307-312.
    Martin Hammer writes on Francis Bacon's early exhibition history, including his participation in wartime group shows of modern European art at the Lefevre Gallery, London. Comprehensively referencing unpublished letters from the Lefevre Gallery Archive, now in the Tate Gallery Archive, sent between Bacon and the Lefevre's then director, Duncan Macdonald, the article tells of Bacon's early successes and later struggles to sell his ambitious, large-scale paintings in a rather sedate post-War Britain.
  • Hammer, M. and Stephens, C. (2009). Seeing the story of one’s time: appropriations from Nazi photography in the work of Francis Bacon. Visual Culture in Britain [Online] 10:315-351. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14714780903263890.
    By analysing a wide range of specific examples, this article seeks to demonstrate that Nazi propaganda photographs were a recurrent point of reference and departure for many of the paintings Francis Bacon produced during the war years and then over the next decade and beyond. The authors consider how his appropriations and transformations of such political imagery intersected with his equally continuous allusions to themes from Christ's Passion and Greek Tragedy. The argument opens up fresh intellectual contexts for Bacon, and reinforces other kinds of evidence that in his art he was motivated to represent the psychological tenor of modern history, with its dialectic of ritual and violence, rather than a more universal notion of the human condition.

Book

  • Hammer, M. and Thomas, B. (2015). My Generation: A Festival of British Art in the 1960s. GB: University of Kent at Canterbury.
  • Hammer, M. (2012). Francis Bacon and Nazi Propaganda. Tate Publishing.
  • Hammer, M. (2007). The Naked Portrait 1900 to 2007. Edinburgh, UK: National Galleries of Scotland.
  • Hammer, M. (2005). Bacon and Sutherland : Patterns of Affinity in British Culture of the 1940s. Yale University Press.
  • Hammer, M. (2005). Graham Sutherland: Landscapes, War Scenes, Portraits 1924-1950. Scala.
  • Hammer, M. and Lodder, C. (2000). Gabo on Gabo: Texts and Interviews. Artists Bookworks, Forest Row.
  • Hammer, M. and Lodder, C. (2000). Constructing Modernity: The Art and Career of Naum Gabo. Yale University Press.

Book section

  • Hammer, M. (2020). The Realism of Gabo’s 1920 Manifesto. In: Naum Gabo: Constructions for Real Life. London and St Ives: Tate Publishing, pp. 33-36.
  • Hammer, M. (2019). Portraiture: Seeing-As and Seeing-In. In: Maes, H. ed. Portraits and Philosophy. New York: Routledge, pp. 239-255. Available at: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429199370.
    It is a truth universally acknowledged that good portraits ‘capture’ the essence of specific individuals, embedding psychological revelations which are projected by the sitter or discerned by the artist, and then grasped intuitively by viewers. This property distinguishes the genre, it is presumed, from representations of social types. I propose here an alternative view, arguing that, within the processes of conception and making, portraits actually assimilate individuals into wider image ideas, types, conventions, formulae, or clichés. When confronted by images they take to be portraits, spectators by contrast tend to ignore all of that, registering what feels like rewarding insight into the singular identity of a person portrayed (applying skills, such as they are, that we deploy in our everyday ‘reading’ of people). In terminology derived somewhat flirtatiously from Wollheimian aesthetics, I argue that artists see as when they are creating portraits, absorbing individuals into categories, whereas viewers see in, discerning hidden depths that are typically derived, in fact, from prior knowledge or opinion, while wilfully disregarding the schemata through which sitters are presented. The first two sections explore those making and viewing dimensions of portraiture, regarded for this purpose as distinct, while the third probes the inherent tension between them through consideration of David Hockney’s celebrated double-portraits from around 1970, and the repetitive commentary to which they have given rise. The conclusion is that portraits are more complex, and therefore aesthetically interesting, than we commonly imagine.
  • Hammer, M. (2017). Hockney as Philosophical Painter. In: Stephens, C. and Wilson, A. eds. David Hockney. London, UK: Tate Publishing, pp. 208-213.
  • Hammer, M. (2016). Introduction. In: Currie, K. and Hammer, M. eds. Ken Currie: Tragic Forms. Flowers Gallery, London. Available at: https://www.flowersgallery.com/shop/books/tragic-forms-ken-currie.
  • Hammer, M. (2015). Ambivalence and Ambiguity: David Sylvester on Henry Moore. In: Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity. Tate Research Publication. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/henry-moore/martin-hammer-ambivalence-and-ambiguity-david-sylvester-on-henry-moore-r1151307.
    Part of the "Critics and Moore" section of the "Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity" Tate research project.

    David Sylvester was a prominent commentator on Moore’s work in the post-war years, producing extended critical accounts, which sometimes accompanied the exhibitions of Moore’s work he curated, and shorter reviews. As explored here, the ambiguous bodily and sexual associations of Moore’s work proved a consistent theme in his writings on the artist over a period of many decades
  • Hammer, M. (2014). The Growth and Form of Artistic Responses to D’Arcy Thompson. In: D’Arcy Thompson’s On Growth and Form. Leeds: Henry Moore Institute, pp. 14-29. Available at: http://www.henry-moore.org/hmf/shop/hmi-essays-on-sculpture-series/092-on-growth-and-form.
  • Hammer, M. (2012). Continuity and Contradiction in the Art of Francis Bacon. In: Arya, R. ed. Francis Bacon: Critical and Theoretical Perspectives. Pater Lang, pp. 121-168.
  • Hammer, M. (2012). Francis Bacon: Painting after Photography. In: British Art in the Cultural Field, 1939-69. Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 156-173.
  • Hammer, M. (2009). Clearing away the Screens. In: Francis Bacon: Portraits and Heads. Edinburgh, UK: National Galleries of Scotland. Available at: https://www.nationalgalleries.org/shop/books/exhibition-catalogues/francis-bacon-portraits-and-heads-exhibition-catalogue.
  • Hammer, M. (2006). Clearing away the screens. In: Francis Bacon: Heads and Portraits. Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, pp. 14-27.
  • Hammer, M. and Lodder, C. (2004). Dematerialising Sculpture: Methods and Motives. In: Barassi, S. ed. Immaterial: Brancusi,Gabo,Moholy-Nagy. Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge. Available at: http://www.kettlesyard.co.uk/events/immaterial-brancusi-gabo-moholy-nagy/.
  • Hammer, M. (1999). The Irony of Egotism. In: John Coplans: A Self-Portrait 1984-99. Edinburgh: Dean Gallery, pp. 5-14.

Conference or workshop item

  • Hammer, M. (2017). Photographic sources and affinities in David Hockey’s art of the 1960s. In: A Bigger Picture: New Approaches to David Hockney - Tate Britain and the Paul Mellon Centre. Available at: http://www.paul-mellon-centre.ac.uk/whats-on/forthcoming/david-hockney.
  • Hammer, M. (2016). Food for Artists: the exhibition as resource. In: Exhibiting Contemporary Art in Post-War Britain.
  • Hammer, M. (2016). Crossing the border and closing the gap: David Hockney and abstraction. In: Generation Painting: Abstraction and British Art, 1955–65. Available at: https://generationpainting.wordpress.com/.
  • Hammer, M. (2016). Making transatlantic sense of Hockney’s A Rake’s Progress. In: History of Art Department Research Seminar, University of York.
  • Hammer, M. (2015). The Silent Kingdom of Panting: Sickert and Hopper. In: Walter Sickert: The Document and the Documentary.
  • Hammer, M. (2015). 1965; Culture and Sculpture in Britain. In: Sculpture: 1965.
  • Hammer, M. (2015). Francis Bacon’s ‘Crucifixion’: The presence of the Nazi past.
  • Hammer, M. (2015). David Hockney’s Tired Indians and Rocky Mountains.

Show / exhibition

  • Hammer, M. (2015). My Generation: A Festival of British Art in the 1960s. [exhibitions].
    3 self-contained but coordinated exhibitions in association with the University of Kent’s 50th anniversary:
    ‘Palindrome: The 60s Art of Brian Rice and Richard Rome’ (with Ben Thomas): Studio 3 Gallery, University of Kent, Canterbury, 19 Jan to 10 April 2015 (curated by Dr Ben Thomas)
    ‘A Marriage of Styles: Pop to Abstraction’: Mascalls Gallery, Paddock Wood, 28 March - 6 June 2015
    'Home and Away: Photographs of Southeastern England by Tony Ray-Jones and Eduardo Paolozzi’s General Dynamic F.U.N.: Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, Canterbury, 9 May - 23 August 2015
  • Hammer, M. (2007). The Naked Portrait. [exhibition].
  • Hammer, M. (2005). Graham Sutherland. [exhibition].

Review

  • Hammer, M. (2016). Frank Auerbach. The Burlington Magazine CLVIII:214-215.
  • Hammer, M. (2010). Francis Bacon. Dublin and Compton Verney (exhibition review). Burlington Magazine [Online] 152:59-61. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40601504.

Thesis

  • Finch, J. (2016). The Art Criticism of David Sylvester.
    The English art critic and curator David Sylvester (1924-2001) played a significant role in the formation of taste in Britain during the second half of the twentieth century. Through his writing, curating and other work Sylvester did much to shape the reputations of, and discourse around, important twentieth century artists including Francis Bacon, Alberto Giacometti, Henry Moore and René Magritte. At the same time his career is of significant sociohistorical interest. On a personal level it shows how a schoolboy expelled at the age of fifteen with no qualifications went on to become a CBE, a Commandeur dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the first critic to receive a Leone d'Oro at the Venice Biennale, assembling a personal collection of artworks worth millions of pounds in the process. In terms of the history of post-war art more broadly, meanwhile, Sylvester's criticism provides a way of understanding developments in British art and its relation to those in Paris and New York during the 1950s and 1960s.

    This thesis provides the first survey of Sylvester's entire output as an art critic across different media and genres, and makes a case for him as a commentator of comparable significance to Roger Fry, Herbert Read, and other British critics who have already received significant scholarly attention. I take a twofold approach, analysing both the quality of Sylvester's writing and criticism, and its function as a catalyst for furthering the careers of artists and instigating significant exhibitions. Common to all of these strands is Sylvester's distinctive critical sensibility, which placed an emphasis on his own aesthetic experiences and how they could be articulated through criticism.
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