Untitled (Seascape with Boats and Island), Pauline Boty
At a glance
Artist: Pauline Boty
Date: c. 1960
Materials: Collage on paper
Acquisition: Purchased with support from Art Fund (2019)
“All over the country young girls are starting, shouting and shaking, and if they terrify you, they mean to and they are beginning to impress the world.” Pauline Boty.
Pauline Boty was one of the founders of the British Pop Art movement and arguably one of the first feminist artists.
Her collage presents us with an alarmingly giant woman rising out of a crochet mountain. It is a quaint version of Attack of the 50ft Woman. The image is witty and ridiculous but hides a more serious undertone. It is a subversive take on British man’s dominance of the sea. The collage uses wood engravings from the Victorian era. An era defined by the ultimate power of the British Empire.
Boty began creating collages and larger canvases using images taken from mass media on bright, bold abstract backgrounds. They showed cultural icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Vladimir Lenin, Elvis Presley, Albert Einstein and Jean-Paul Belmondo. Her painting, Scandal ’63, presumed lost, is known only by a photo of the artist with the work. It makes reference to the Profumo Affair and uses the iconic image of Christine Keeler by photographer Lewis Morley. This work shows Boty’s perspective on the cult of celebrity, and how it represents and manipulates women’s bodies.
Until the 1990s, Boty was mostly left out of art history in the 20th century. More focus has been given to her striking looks, her celebrity status and her frank sexuality. There was an outdated notion that a woman can’t be taken seriously because of her appearance or behaviour.
Boty is now gaining the reputation that she has always deserved. Exhibitions such as The Sixties Art Scene in London (1993) at the Barbican and Pauline Boty: Pop Artist and Woman (2014) at Pallant House Gallery, have contributed to a re-evaluation of Boty and her work.