follow us in feedly
Kicking Against the Pricks: How Pauline Boty’s pioneering Pop art bucked the art world’s boy’s club

0_088pbbed.jpg
 
Pauline Boty was an artist, activist, actress and model. She was one of the leading figures of the British Pop art movement during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Her contemporaries were Peter Blake, Derek Boshier and David Hockney. But when Boty tragically died at the height of her fame in 1966, her work mysteriously disappeared. Not one of her paintings was exhibited again until 1993.

Boty was all but forgotten by the time a cache of her paintings was rediscovered on a farm in the English countryside in the early 1990s. The paintings had been stored in an old barn for safe-keeping by her brother. Their rediscovery placed Boty firmly back into the center of the Pop art boy’s club.

Throughout her life, Boty kicked against the men who tried to hold her back. Born into a Catholic family in 1938, her father (a by-the-book accountant) wanted his daughter to marry someone respectable and raise a family. Instead she chose to study art to her father’s great displeasure. In 1954, Boty won a scholarship to Wimbledon School of Art.

At college, Boty was dubbed the “Wimbledon Bridget Bardot” because of her blonde hair and film star looks. She went onto study lithography and stained glass design. However, her desire was to study painting. When she applied to the Royal College of Art in 1958, it was suggested by the male tutors that she would be more suited studying stained glass design as there were so few women painters. Though Boty enrolled in the design course she continued with her ambitions to paint.

Encouraged by the original Pop artist Eduardo Paolozzi, Boty began painting at her apartment. Her makeshift studio soon became a meeting point for her friends (Derek Marlowe, Celia Birtwell) and contemporaries (Blake, Boshier, Hockney and co) to meet, talk and work. Boty started exhibiting her collages and paintings alongside these artists and her career as a painter commenced.

In 1962, Boty was featured in a documentary about young British pop artists Pop Goes the Easel alongside Peter Blake, Derek Boshier and Peter Phillips. The film was directed by Ken Russell who created an incredibly imaginative and memorable portrait of the four artists. Each was given the opportunity to discuss their work—only Boty did not. Instead she collaborated with Russell on a very prescient dream sequence.
 

 
It opens with Boty laying out her paintings and drawings on the floor of a long circular corridor—actually the old BBC TV Center. As she examines her work a group of young women appear behind her. These women walk all over her artwork. Then from out of an office door, a nightmarish figure in a wheelchair appears and chases Boty along the seemingly endless twisting corridors. Boty eventually escapes into an elevator—only to find the ominous figure waiting inside.

Her performance in Russell’s film led to further acting roles—in Alfie with Michael Caine, with James Fox on the stage, Stanley Baxter on television and again with Russell in a small role opposite Oliver Reed in Dante’s Inferno. Boty was photographed by David Bailey, modeled for Vogue, regularly appeared as an audience dancer on Ready, Steady, Go!, and held legendary parties at her studio to which everyone who was anyone attended—from the Stones to Bob Dylan. Boty was the bright flame to whom everyone was attracted.

She was a feminist icon—living her life, doing what she wanted to do, and not letting men from hold her back. But the sixties were not always the liberated decade many Boomers would have us believe. Boty’s critics nastily dismissed her as the Pop art pin-up girl. The left-wing party girl. A dumb blonde. Of course, they were wrong—but shit unfortunately sticks.

Boty’s work became more politically nuanced. She criticised America’s foreign policy in Vietnam; dissected the unacknowledged sexism of everyday life; and celebrated female sexuality. She had a long affair with the director Philip Saville—which allegedly inspired Joseph Losey’s film Darling with Dirk Bogarde and Julie Christie. Then after a ten day “whirlwind romance” Boty married Clive Goodwin—a literary agent and activist. She claimed he was the only man who was interested in her mind.

In 1965, Boty was nearing the top of her field when she found she was pregnant. During a routine prenatal examination, doctors discovered a malignant tumor. Boty refused an abortion. She also refused chemotherapy as she did not want to damage the fetus. In February 1966, Boty gave birth to a daughter—Boty Goodwin. Five months later in July 1966, Pauline Boty died. Her last painting was a commission for Kenneth Tynan’s nude revue Oh! Calcutta! called “BUM.”
 
0_0scandpb63.jpg
Pauline Boty in her studio holding the painting ‘Scandal’ in 1963.
 
0_0bghan60pb.jpg
‘A Big Hand’ (1960).

More of Pauline Boty’s paintings plus Ken Russell’s ‘Pop Goes the Easel,’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
After ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’: A gallery of Peter Blake’s pop art album covers

000phsgtbtpetblak67.jpg
The ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ tableau
 
British pop artist Peter Blake still receives copies of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in the mail with a fan request to add his signature and send the iconic cover back by return of post. It’s because the cover to Sgt Pepper’s is Blake’s most famous artwork—one made in collaboration with his then wife Jann Haworth.

In 1967, the year of Sgt. Pepper’s, Blake was the leading light of the British pop art movement, exhibiting alongside his fellow talents Pauline Boty, Derek Boshier, R. B. Kitaj, Peter Phillips, Richard Hamilton and David Hockney (until he moved to Los Angeles). What made Blake’s work special then (as it is now) was his ability to create an iconic and identifiable style of representation (through collage, paint and installation) that fully captured that swinging decade. His mix of pop culture ephemera (pop stars, soccer players) together with the semi-autobiographical self-portraiture (of artist as lapel-badge wearing kid in grey short trousers) maintains a traditional narrative form within a highly individual and modernist style.

Blake has continued to produce iconic and memorable art over the decades, and long after Sgt. Pepper’s he is still in great demand as a designer of album covers. This selection ranges from his early work for Liverpool Poet Roger McGough, to his work for his former art school pupil Ian Dury (Blake was, by the singer’s admission, his most important mentor) to Oasis and Paul Weller. Blake has also worked with Eric Clapton on three separate projects though briefly thought he had lost the job on his first Clapton commission (24 Nights) when he ‘fessed up to “Slow Hand” that he couldn’t abide long guitar solos.
 
fsummonkpetebmcgo.jpg
Roger McGough: ‘Summer with Monika’ (1967).
 
aabeatsgtpeblak67.jpg
The Beatles: ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ cover designed by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, 1967.
 
cpentangpblakswe.jpg
Pentangle: Sweet Child’ (1968).
 
whfacedanwhopbalk81.jpg
The Who: ‘Faces Dances’ (1981). Designed by Peter Blake, with portrait paintings of The Who band members by Bill Jacklin, Tom Phillips, Colin Self, Richard Hamilton, Mike Andrews, llen Jones, David Hockney, Clive Barker, R. B. Kitaj, Howard Hodgkin, Patric Caulfield, Peter Blake himself, Joe Tilson, Patric Proctor and David Tindle.
 
ffbndapblak84.jpg
Band Aid: ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas Time?’ (1984).
 
plwllrpbalk95.jpg
 
plwllrpbalk222.jpg
Paul Weller: ‘Stanley Road’ (1995).
 
dddindrypeblak01.jpg
Various: ‘Brand New Boots and Panties—Tribute to Ian Dury’ (2001).
 
In 1962, director John Schlesinger approached Peter Blake to make a documentary for the BBC about British Pop Art. From the outset, the pair did not get on—Schlesinger had ambitions to make a movie (he did, it was called Billy Liar). Schlesinger left the project and was replaced by the young Ken Russell, who was fast becoming the star director at the BBC’s Monitor arts documentary series. Russell and Blake hit it off immediately and the two developed the documentary into something bigger and better. Russell brought in artist Pauline Boty, who he had wanted to make film with, while Blake brought in artists Peter Philips and Derek Boshier. Under Russell’s directorial guidance the four artists collaborated on a dazzling and highly original film that captured elements of each artist’s personality. The title Pop Goes the Easel was apparently Blake’s suggestion, but the film’s style is all Russell.
 

 
More Blakean covers, after the jump….
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Pop Goes the Easel’: Ken Russell’s film on 4 British Pop Artists from 1962

image
 
Pop Goes the Easel was Ken Russell’s first full-length documentary for the BBC’s arts series Monitor. It focused on 4 British Pop Artists - Peter Blake, Peter Philips, Pauline Boty and Derek Boshier.

Russell was revolutionary in his approach to making this film, he developed a whole range of new techniques to capture and reflect the excitement and energy of these young artists, which was cutting edge back in 1962, but are now part of the very heart of documentary-making (you’ll may also note clues to some of Russell’s later works). It’s a beautiful wee film that captures these artists, their work and the start of the swinging sixties perfectly - though I only wish it was in color.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment