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Pauline Boty: Pop Artist and Woman

[ Exhibition )

Monochrome image of a man with dark hair and wearing a dark jumper, against a blue jumper. At the top of the painting are four women's heads against an orange background.

Pauline Boty, Portrait of Derek Marlowe with Unknown Ladies, 1964, Oil on canvas © The Pauline Boty Estate

Pauline Boty was a leading figure in the Pop Art movement of the 1960s. So why has she been so overlooked?

Pauline Boty (1938-1966) was one of the founders of the British Pop Art movement of the 1960s. Despite this, like the rest of the women associated with Pop, her work was often marginalised.

Boty was fearless in her art. She tackled complex themes of sexuality, gender, race and politics. Her work enriches the male-dominated sphere of Pop Art with a female perspective.

Sociable, charismatic and popular, Boty was a striking figure in 1960s London. She was an active player in the political and cultural movements of the time. Her contemporaries dubbed her the ‘Wimbledon Bardot’ due to her resemblance to the French film star. Her beauty often meant that others undermined her artistic achievements.

A revolution is on the way, and it’s partly because we no longer take our standards from the tweedy top. 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, The Public Ear, 1963

Born in South London in 1938, Boty first studied at Wimbledon School of Art and then the Royal College of Art. There she became friends with David Hockney, Sir Peter Blake, Derek Boshier and Peter Phillips. She was an active member of the student body, publishing poetry and acting in college reviews.

In 1961, Boty exhibited in the first ever Pop Art exhibition which took place at the AIA Gallery. ‘Blake, Boty, Porter, Reeve’ garnered her positive national press, particularly for her collages. The following year Ken Russell profiled her in his landmark 1962 documentary, Pop Goes The Easel. This influential film placed Boty at the centre of emergent British Pop.

This period also marked the beginning of her brief acting career. She appeared on stage, television dramas and films including Michael Caine’s Alfie. She also worked as a radio presenter for an early BBC arts review show. Although these pursuits were lucrative, it distracted her from painting, her main priority.

Boty’s premature death of cancer in 1966 at the age of 28 cut her career short. Her works were lost in the limelight cast on her male Pop Art counterparts.

This was the first public exhibition to survey Boty’s career as a whole. It featured paintings, collages and ephemera from public and private collections including rarely seen pieces. It toured from Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

Want to know more?

If you’re conducting research into this artist or another aspect of Modern British art and would like to use our library and archive, please contact Sarah Norris, Collections Manager on

Black and white photograph of a blonde woman painting at a canvas.

Pauline Boty painting Derek Marlowe

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