Among British surrealists, few absorbed the movement’s aesthetics and politics more thoroughly than the artist, translator and historian Paul Hammond, who has died of cancer at the age of 72.
His parents, May (nee Hinchcliff) and William Hammond, both worked in factories in Derby, where Paul was born. After studying at Spondon Park grammar school, he went to Derby College of Art and then to Leeds College of Art.
There, his tutors included Patrick Hughes, who became a lifetime friend and occasional collaborator. Other formative long-term relationships, notably with Glen Baxter and the poet/artist Trevor Winkfield, also took shape in Leeds: while never constituting a “school”, Hammond, Hughes, Baxter and Winkfield all delighted in what Paul called the “everyday marvellous”.
In 1969 Paul married Chris Dunn and the couple moved to London, where Paul studied film at the Slade School of Art. It was at this time that he and I met. I was working at Compendium Bookshop in Camden Town, a treasure trove of 1970s counterculture; Paul was first a customer, then a colleague. Working with Paul was an education in itself, and music was always part of our conversation. We shared an enthusiasm for country and western, its blend of the ecstatic and the morbid an apt link with surrealism.
Meanwhile, Paul’s writing career flourished. Marvellous Méliès (1974) was the first English-language study of the pioneering French film-maker Georges Méliès; other books included French Undressing (1976), about saucy French postcards; Upon the Pun, co-written with Hughes (1978); and The Shadow and Its Shadow (1978), a compilation of surrealist cinephilia, translated from the French by Paul.
Paul and Chris divorced in 1989. In 1991 Paul met Ana Forcada at a party in London; and after a whirlwind romance he moved to Barcelona, Ana’s home-town. They lived together until Paul’s death, marrying in 2017.
Barcelona proved a congenial place to live and work, not least as a translator: among his dozens of translations were Michel Houellebecq’s Whatever (1998, the novelist’s first appearance in English) and Borde and Chaumeton’s A Panorama of American Film Noir (2002). With Román Gubern, he wrote Luis Buñuel: The Red Years (published in English in 2012), a major contribution to film history. In the meantime, he continued to work on his own painting, a mysterious body of work that remains to be discovered by the world at large.
Paul is survived by Ana, his sister, Shirley, and his niece, Charlotte.