Tag Archives: British Pop Art

Part 6: Pauline Boty (1938-1966)

Last time, in the Doctor’s Dozen segment of the Serendipitous Compendium radio show, John and I discussed the life and work of Eduardo Paolozzi, one of the founders of the British Pop art movement. In this week’s interview, I connected Paolozzi with Pauline Boty, who was also a founding member of the movement.

Boty was a key player in the frenetic Swinging London social scene that drew together painters, writers, artists, film-makers, musicians, leftwing political activists and poets.

Pauline Boty in 1963

Boty’s paintings and collages often demonstrated a joy in self-assured femininity and female sexuality, and expressed overt or implicit criticism of the “man’s world” in which she lived.

It’s A Man’s World I (1964)

During the late 1950s, Boty became friends with other emerging Pop artists, such as David Hockney, Derek Boshier, Peter Phillips and Peter Blake. As well as studying art, she sang, danced, and acted. Her paintings demonstrate her interest in drawing from both high and low popular culture sources.

Boty, Peter Blake, Derek Boshier and Peter Phillips were featured in Ken Russell’s documentary film Pop Goes the Easel broadcast in 1962.  Her appearance marked the beginning of her brief acting career.

Pauline Boty in BBCTV’s ‘Pop Goes the Easel’

The popular press picked up on her glamorous actress persona, often undermining her legitimacy as an artist by referring to her physical charms. Scene ran a front-page article in November 1962 that included the following remarks: “Actresses often have tiny brains. Painters often have large beards. Imagine a brainy actress who is also a painter and also a blonde, and you have PAULINE BOTY.”

Bum (1966)

Next time, we’re crossing over the Atlantic taking us from 1960s London to the beginnings of American Pop art and the multi-talented artist, Larry Rivers.

 

Part 5: Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005)

In Part 3 of the Doctor’s Dozen, John and I discussed the artist Raoul Hausmann, a founding member and leading proponent of the Berlin Dada movement and one of the originator’s of the photomontage technique. This led to the subject of Part 4, Kurt Schwitters who also used photomontage, but developed this to create his famous Merz pictures. He also incorporated American comics into his collages, and as such is often considered to have been the forerunner of British Pop Art. Any consideration of this subject would be incomplete without attention being given to Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, a leading member of Britain’s post-war avant-garde and arguably the father of British Pop Art. So, Paolozzi is the subject of Part 5 of the Doctor’s Dozen.

Eduardo Paolozzi

Pop Art took its name, subject matter and inspiration from popular culture and the artists who developed it were interested in the commercial imagery of advertising and the media, which fuelled the post-war consumer boom. They drew not only their subject matter, but also their materials and techniques from the world of mass production.

Bunk (1952), Tate

Later in America, artists such as Roy Lichtenstein painted huge canvases whose imagery and painting technique imitated cheap comics. Andy Warhol famously chose objects such as Campbell’s soup cans and magazine images of Marilyn Monroe for his subjects, in order to show how the endless replication of images will turn soup cans and superstars into icons, but also into objects of disposable consumption.

‘Look Mickey’ (1961), Roy Lichtenstein, National Gallery of Art, Washington
‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’ (1962), Andy Warhol, MoMA

British Pop Art had a different tone, reflecting the reality gap that existed between the glamour, affluence and optimism represented by the USA, and the rationing and social hardship experienced in post-war Britain. Paolozzi and his contemporaries parodied the aspirational consumer lifestyle served up in glossy magazines.

Paolozzi was a member of the Independent Group, a loose association of young artists who were interested in the impact of technology, mass production and popular culture on art. His seminal 1947 collage I was a Rich Man’s Plaything is considered the earliest standard bearer representing Pop Art.

‘I was a Rich Man’s Plaything’ (1947) by Eduardo Paolozzi, Tate

In 1952 Paolozzi gave a hugely influential lecture entitled ‘Bunk’ where he demonstrated how people were daily bombarded by an unprecedented array of images. He showed a series of collages in rapid succession that he had created from advertisements, glossy magazines, science journals and comics. Much of material he used he had collected from American servicemen.

The collage ‘Real Gold’ [below] comes from the series shown in the ‘Bunk’ lecture. Paolozzi’s use of collage in the Bunk lecture reflected his interest in the photomontage techniques of Surrealist and Dada art. However, his lecture is often taken as the moment Pop Art in Britain was born.

‘Real Gold’ [from the Bunk! portfolio], (1972), Eduardo Paolozzi
Another British artist who is forever association with British Pop Art is Pauline Boty. For me, it is Boty’s paintings that came to epitomise the 1960s in ‘Swinging London’, so it is to this artist’s work we will turn for Part 6 of the Doctor’s Dozen.

‘The Only Blonde in the World’ (1963), Pauline Boty, Tate