'Pauline Boty: Pop Artist and Woman' is the first public exhibition to survey the work and career of Pauline Boty (1938-1966), the pioneering Pop artist known for her glamorous, free-spirited lifestyle.
One of the few female artists associated with the British Pop Art movement of the 1960s alongside Peter Blake, Derek Boshier and David Hockney, Boty has been largely overshadowed by her male Pop counterparts since her untimely death aged just 28. This exhibition, which comes to Chichester from Wolverhampton Art Gallery, reinstates Boty at the forefront of the movement, featuring paintings, collages and ephemera from public and private collections including rarely seen pieces that have not been exhibited for 40 years.
The exhibition follows Boty's artistic progression from her early experimentation with various media such as painting and stained glass to a series of sexually and politically-charged paintings and collages. It demonstrates how her oeuvre enriches the male-dominated sphere of Pop Art with a female perspective, exploring themes of female sexuality, gender, race and politics, and contemporary events such as the Cuban missile crisis and the assassination of JFK.
Born in South London in 1938, Boty first studied at Wimbledon School of Art and then the Royal College where she met David Hockney, Sir Peter Blake, Derek Boshier and Peter Phillips. Sociable, charismatic and popular, Boty was a striking figure, dubbed the 'Wimbledon Bardot' on account of her extreme good looks. Yet her glamorous appearance often meant that she struggled to be taken seriously, despite her passionate engagement with politics and the intellectual life of the college.
During her time at the RCA, Boty published her poetry in an alternative student magazine, acted in college reviews, and was a knowledgeable presence at the film society. She was also an active participant in Anti-Ugly Action, a group of students who protested against new British architecture that they considered offensive and of poor quality. Unlike many of her female counterparts, Boty was not afraid to embrace her sexuality in her life and work. One of the exhibition's highlights is Colour Her Gone (1962), a painting based on a photograph of Pop culture icon Marilyn Monroe. Monroe was a fascinating subject for Boty, who returned to the theme repeatedly because of her provocative yet vulnerable sexuality and overwhelming stature as a celebrity.
In 1961, Boty exhibited in what has since been described as the first ever Pop Art exhibition, 'Blake, Boty, Porter, Reeve', at the AIA Gallery, receiving positive attention in the national press for the Pop sensibility of her collages, and the following year she was one of the four artists profiled in Ken Russell's landmark 1962 documentary on English Pop Art, Pop Goes The Easel. This innovative and influential film for the BBC's Monitor series placed Boty at the centre of emergent British Pop.
It also marked the beginning of her brief acting career which included TV appearances and stage roles at the Royal Court and the New Arts Theatre. Although acting was lucrative, it distracted her from painting, which remained her main priority. The press picked up on her glamorous actress persona, often undermining her legitimacy as an artist by referring to her physical charms.
Boty's premature death of cancer in 1966, aged just 28, cut her career short and her works were not exhibited for nearly thirty years. While her glamorous persona and high-profile connections such as her marriage to the actor and literary agent Clive Goodwin have endured, until recently, her work has been largely overlooked, lost in the limelight cast on her male Pop Art counterparts.
This exhibition will fittingly place Boty's work alongside Pallant House Gallery's extensive collection of Pop Art, one of the largest and most significant outside London. Key works in the exhibition include The Only Blonde in the World (1963), My Colouring Book (1963), It's a Man's World II (1965-6), BUM (1966) and Untitled (Self Portrait) (c.1955).