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An early Pauline Boty collage joins our collection
[ News )
For too long, the work of British Pop artist Pauline Boty has been notably absent from our collection. This acquisition fills a significant gap in our collection and supports our ongoing mission to increase our representation of women artists.
With support from the Art Fund, we are delighted to have acquired Untitled (Seascape with Boats and Island) (c.1960 – 61) from the Dr Jeffrey Sherwin Collection. It becomes the latest addition to our growing permanent collection of British and international modern art.
[Boty] refused to accept the apparently irreconcilable oppositions between sexual woman and serious artist, between celebration and critique, between high and low culture.
Sue Tate, Curator of Pauline Boty: Pop Artist and Woman
Pauline Boty (1938 – 1966) was at the centre of the emerging British Pop Art movement alongside fellow artists Sir Peter Blake, Derek Boshier and David Hockney. Her work epitomised Pop – they were colourful, gaudy and littered with references to popular culture – but also explored the artist’s perspective on the relationship between women and mass culture.
A key figure of 1960s swinging London, she fully embraced the decade’s explosion of sexual and creative liberty, and her works were often sexually and politically charged. Dubbed the ‘Wimbledon Bardot’, her striking good looks and sexuality prevented her being taken seriously as an artist. Her artistic career was tragically brief owing to her death from cancer aged only 28. Whilst her glamorous persona endured, much of her work was lost or buried and her artistic contribution to Pop reduced to a footnote in the love lives of her male counterparts.
Thankfully, a relatively recent reappraisal has placed her firmly back in the narrative of Pop art where she belongs. In 2014 we held the exhibition Pauline Boty: Pop Artist and Woman, the first survey of her career as a whole. The exhibition featured works that hadn’t been exhibited for over 40 years. You can read more about the ongoing search for missing work in the Guardian’s article ‘Mystery of missing art of Pauline Boty’.
Collage was a popular technique for many Pop artists. Untitled (Seascape with Boats and Island) is one of Boty’s earlier collages and has been assembled from Victorian engravings. These old engravings were a key pictorial resource for the artist. The exotic landscape watched over by a towering white European woman is a reference to British colonialism. The monumental scale of the ‘feminine’ crochet structure and the woman on top represent Boty’s interest in exploring ideas around gender and identity, especially in historical narrative. This piece is reminiscent of much earlier works by artists such as Max Ernst and Paul Nash.
For important men to reduce her to the fact that they were in love with Pauline did immense damage to Pauline. After she died, it gave her art no space.
Caroline Coon, Artist and Writer
Our mission is to provide new perspectives on British art from 1900 to now, and to champion artists such as Pauline Boty who have been unfairly overlooked. Our collection includes an extensive array of works by British Pop artists and the absence of a work by Pauline Boty has felt like a gaping omission. But not any longer! We are delighted to have filled this gap in our collection so that we can better tell the story of British Pop Art. Acquiring this work is also another small step in our ongoing mission to increase our representation of women artists. You can read more about this mission and what else we’ve been up to in this Art UK piece ‘From Marlow Moss to Evelyn Dunbar: Pallant House Gallery’s mission to represent women artists‘. The acquisition of this work was made possible with the support of Art Fund.
The work is currently the centerpiece of our collection exhibition on collage. Until 14 June.
If you are interested in reading more about the life of Pauline Boty, we recommend the New York Times ‘Overlooked No More: Pauline Boty, Rebellious Pop Artist‘.
For more information on the life and work of Pauline Boty, visit paulineboty.org.