James Hamilton
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JAMES HAMILTON

is a curator, writer and lecturer, who entered the University of Manchester to read Mechanical Engineering, and emerged with a degree in History of Art.

This radical change in direction has, forty years later, distilled itself into a cycle of four books which look from a variety of angles at the society of art and science in London in the first half of the nineteenth century

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‘James Hamilton is an outstanding biographer. He reveals Turner’s world for all its wild contradictions and, like Turner, brings to life what the eye cannot see.’
Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire

‘James Hamilton is a wonderfully energetic writer who in London Lights has found a perfect subject in the story of the men and women who invented modern London. The book is a revelation’
Fiona MacCarthy, biographer of Eric Gill, William Morris and Lord Byron.

‘Full of rich and fascinating material … Hamilton’s biography humanises Faraday, and sets him convincingly in the context of Romanticism’
Lisa Jardine, The Times.

James Hamilton's work in exploring cultural boundaries in art and science has led also to a series of exhibitions including Turner and the Scientists (Tate Gallery, 1998), Volcano - from Turner to Warhol (Compton Verney, 2010) and Making Painting: Helen Frankenthaler and J M W Turner (Turner Contemporary, Margate, 2014).

Read more about these and other books by James Hamilton >>


A Strange Business

Published by Atlantic Books
Making Art and Money in Nineteenth Century Britain

A Strange BusinessBritain in the nineteenth century saw a series of technological and social changes which continue to influence and direct us today. Its reactants were human genius, money and influence, its crucibles the streets and institutions, its catalyst time, its control the market.

In this rich and fascinating book, James Hamilton investigates the vibrant exchange between culture and business in nineteenth-century Britain, which became a centre for world commerce following the industrial revolution. He explores how art was made and paid for, the turns of fashion, and the new demands of a growing middle-class, prominent among whom were the artists themselves.

While the leading figures of the world of art and literature are players here, so too are patrons, financiers, collectors and industrialists; lawyers, publishers, entrepreneurs and journalists; artists' suppliers, engravers, dealers and curators; hostesses, shopkeepers and brothel keepers; quacks, charlatans and auctioneers. Hamilton brings them all vividly to life in this kaleidoscopic portrait of the business of culture in nineteenth-century Britain, and provides thrilling and original insights into the working lives of some of our most celebrated artists.

“It is impossible to describe what this book is about; easier simply to say that it is wonderful ... This is a strange gallimaufry of a book but an entirely joyous one”.
Lynn Barber, Sunday Times.

“This witty, ingeniously structured book - at once a serious appraisal of a complex cultural phenomenon and a compendium of scurrilously funny stories - is not about art for art's sake, it is about work and the market”.
Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Times.

“Entertaining and original”.
Martin Gayford, Daily Telegraph [Five Stars].

“This is a brilliant account of learning, or failing, to survive in a market of extraordinary brutality”.
Philip Hensher, Spectator.


Making Painting:
Helen Frankenthaler and J M W Turner

Making paintings

showing at Turner Contemporary, Margate
25 January 2014 – 11 May 2014

Making Painting explores the timeless act of painting through the work of two artists separated by one hundred years and nearly four thousand miles: JMW Turner (1775-1851) and Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011).

'It is the excitements of this conjunction between a Romantic nineteenth-century Briton and an abstract expressionist twentieth-century American that the exhibition seeks to evoke, revealing the fellowship that the two artists share in paint across their temporal divide, and the vibrant correspondences which uncover something of the timeless cerebral foundations of landscape art. These two artists could only have met and talked in our imaginations: so bringing their work together takes imagination just one small step further towards reality and allows us to examine values common to both.' James Hamilton
'A joyous exhibition, full of vitality' Times Higher Education

"Such dissolving forms and Frankenthaler's delight in paint itself are matched in Turner’s works, which progress from early bucolic scenes to skies of riotous swirling."
The Guardian Guide

"Naturally, leaves you hungry for more."
Fisun Guner, Arts Desk

"...traverses sea, space and time."
AnOther Magazine

Photo: Louise Thomas
Photo: Louise Thomas

As a curator James Hamilton has organised dozens of exhibitions since the 1970s including Wilhelm Lehmbruck (Portsmouth City Museum, 1974), Arthur Rackham (Sheffield, Bristol and the V&A, 1979-80), The Danish Show – Contemporary Paintings (1986-87), Turner’s Britain (Birmingham, 2003), Turner and Italy (Ferrara, Edinburgh and Budapest) and Volcano - from Turner to Warhol (Compton Verney, 2010) and Making Painting - Helen Frankenthaler and J M W Turner (Margate, 2014). Please go to Exhibitions for more details. He has written widely on nineteenth and twentieth century art, and in the Spectator, The Independent and the Financial Times. His writing on painting and printmaking explores in particular artists whose work crosses the boundaries which tend to separate art, literature and science.

He was University Curator at the University of Birmingham 1992-2013, and is currently Senior Research Fellow and Hon Reader at the University of Birmingham. He was Alistair Horne Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, 1998/99.

He has lectured across the United Kingdom and in Italy, Hungary, Poland and the USA on Turner, Faraday, and the culture of Victorian Britain, and has contributed to programmes on BBC Radio 3 and 4 and BBC1 television on the art of J M W Turner.

Turner's suns: Inspired by science?
James Hamilton in conversation with Rob Le Frenais and Evan Davies on 'Today', BBC Radio 4, Tuesday 15 Nov 2011 [listen... ]

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Installation of Making Painting at Turner Contemporary, Margate.

© James Hamilton