“The Hidden Mod in Modern Art: London, 1957-1969” by Thomas Crow looks into the considerable influence of the Mod subculture on key figures of the 1960s British art scene. One of its six chapters is devoted in its entirety to Pauline Boty and Bridget Riley, including a fascinating account of the former’s association with John Schlesinger and his films Billy Liar and Darling. The book is published by the Paul Mellon Centre.
From the Yale University Press website: “Bonding over matters of taste and style, the ‘Mods’ of late 1950s London recognised in one another shared affinities for Italian-style suits, tidy haircuts, espresso bars, Vespa scooters and the latest American jazz. In this groundbreaking book, leading art historian Thomas Crow argues that the figure of the Mod exerted an influence beyond its assumed social boundaries by exemplifying the postwar metropolis in all of its excitement and complexity. Crow examines the works of key figures in the London art scene of the 1960s, including Robyn Denny, David Hockney, Pauline Boty, Bridget Riley and Bruce McLean, who shared and heightened aspects of this new and youthful urbanity. The triumphant arrival of the international counterculture forced both young Mods and established artists to reassess and regroup in novel, revealing formations. Understanding the London Mod brings with it a needed, up-to-date reckoning with the legacies of Situationism, Social Art History and Cultural Studies.”
Imprint: Paul Mellon Centre Distribution: Yale University Press Format: Hardback ISBN: 9781913107130 Dimensions: 241 x 165mm Pages: 200 Illustrations: 140 colour + b-w illustrations Price: £25
“Ready, Steady, Go! The Weekend Starts Here” by Andy Neill has just been published by BMG Books. The 12″ x 12″ hardback comprises 272 pages with a UK retail price of £39.99.
Pauline Boty danced on the first show and was from then on a regular dancer with Derek Boshier. Both are mentioned in the book and Boshier’s 10th July 1964 dancer’s badge button is included among its illustrations.
From the BMG press release:
“Almost sixty years have passed since the first transmission of the most influential popular music programme in British television history. Ready, Steady, Go! began broadcasting on Friday, 9th August 1963 and became an essential television ritual for the newly confident British teenager. It provided a style bible – setting trends and becoming the barometer for popular culture. It epitomised the spirit of youthful optimism that gripped Britain in the mid- Sixties, reflected by the handpicked Mod audience who were an integral part of the programme. This was perfectly embodied by girl-next-door presenter Cathy McGowan whose shy, almost awkward demeanour directly connected her with the show’s target audience. It ran for three and a half years up to December 1966, its demise coinciding with the loss of pop’s innocence and the birth of the ‘rock industry.’ Within that time RSG! set a blueprint for music presentation and production on British television that resonated over the following decades and can still be felt today. It attracted and presented anyone who was anyone in popular music at the time: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and Otis Redding were just some of the important names that appeared. RSG! not only gave invaluable television promotion to these greats but also provided such then-unknowns as Rod Stewart, Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Donovan, and Jimi Hendrix with their first small screen exposure. Ready, Steady, Go! broke through technical barriers. Young adventurous directors such as Michael Lindsay-Hogg experimented with camera techniques used in French nouvelle vague cinema. The sets that were designed each week by Nicholas Ferguson were consciously modelled on current mod fashions and op art (Hockney, Riley, Blake etc.) Ready, Steady, Go! has never been documented in full detail before – until now. Thanks to exclusive contributions and unseen photographs and memorabilia, author Andy Neill fully examines Ready, Steady, Go! from quintessential Swinging London accessory to its current iconic status as the most legendary popular music programme of all time.”
I would like to thank the BBC Photo Library for their assistance in confirming that copyright for the images of Pauline Boty’s works shown in Ken Russell’s 1962 documentary Pop Goes the Easel resides with the Estate of Pauline Boty, and am delighted therefore to be able to include them on this website. Commissioned by BBC Television for its Monitor series, Russell’s film includes 16 of Boty’s works shown initially full screen and face-on and then side-on whilst she sat with Peter Blake to discuss their content and sources of imagery. The titles aren’t discussed, but as mentioned in the previous News item, the hope is to ultimately match at least some of them to those of works exhibited in the Blake, Boty, Porter, Reeve exhibition which took place at the AIA Gallery whilst the programme was being filmed.
For UK viewers, Pop Goes the Easel is currently available on iPlayer here: [link]
Much thanks are due to Geoffrey Reeve for sending in a copy of the list of works that include those shown by Pauline Boty in the group exhibition Blake, Boty, Porter, Reeve at the AIA Gallery in London in late 1961 which have now been added to the Collages listed here on the website. Many of these works, now sadly presumed lost, made an appearance in Ken Russell’s Pop Goes the Easel, originally broadcast by the BBC as part of the Monitor series of arts programme on 25th March 1962. Ultimately it is hoped further research will enable at least some of the lost collages shown in the film to be matched to their titles.
The gallery has celebrated the acquisition with the following announcement:
“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.
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.
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.”
The Art Newspaper has given another glowing review for London’s New Scene: Art and Culture in the 1960s by Lisa Tickner [see previous posts] including this mention of Boty “London’s New Scene is as elegantly handsome as David Hemmings in a pair of white jeans. The picture research is formidable: fashion shoots, cigar adverts, protest posters, film stills and Sunday Times strip cartoons run side by side with paintings by Hockney, Derek Boshier, Peter Blake, Pauline Boty, Bridget Riley et al. We are treated to lavish behind-the-scenes documentation of Russell at work on Pop Goes the Easel, and Antonioni researching and shooting Blow-Up.” The full review is here: [link]
Gareth Harris, chief contributing editor of The Art Newspaper will be talking with art historian Lisa Tickner about her book on IG Live tomorrow – Friday 10th July at 2pm BST/9am EDT Instagram Live. See @theartnewspaper.official for further info.
Jorge Lewinski’s photograph of Pauline Boty has been chosen by the latest issue of The Herald Magazine with a brief biography of her to illustrate their book review of London’s New Scene: Art and Culture in the 1960s [see News item, 12 May].
The review notes “Pauline Boty is one of the great what-ifs of the 1960s. What might she have gone on to do if she hadn’t died of cancer in 1966, aged just 28? She packed plenty into her short life as it was. Actor, broadcaster, proto-feminist, regular dancer on Ready Steady Go and, of course, the only British pop artist to be a woman. Boty’s good looks and whirlwind energy marked her out as a very 1960s creature (she may have been the inspiration for Julie Christie’s character in the film version of Billy Liar). The truth is she also suffered from bouts of depression and had to deal with the casual sexism of the age. Her lasting legacy is the vibrancy and the immediacy of her art. Boty is just one of the artists whose work features in Lisa Tickner’s comprehensive survey of the burgeoning art scene in London 60 years ago, taking in everyone from Gilbert & George to David Hockney.”
Two works by Pauline Boty have been chosen for June’s Dance Gazette – the magazine for the Royal Academy of Dance – to illustrate their book review of London’s New Scene: Art and Culture in the 1960s [see previous post]. The review notes “Dance is also in the mix – from the filmmaker Ken Russell, besotted with classic Hollywood musicals, to the artist Pauline Boty, who was a regular dancer on the tv pop series Ready Steady Go! and a dab hand at the twist. ‘All over the country young girls are sprouting, shouting and shaking,’ she said, ‘and if they terrify you they meant to.’” More info on the magazine is here [link]
In London’s New Scene: Art and Culture in the 1960s Lisa Tickner presents a sequence of critical case studies, each of which explores a particular institution or event in the cultural life of London between 1962 and 1968. Each chapter takes a particular topic as its focus – these include Ken Russell’s film Pop Goes the Easel (1962), the opening of the Kasmin Gallery (1963), the first of the New Generation exhibitions and Painting and Sculpture of a Decade: ’54-’64 at the Whitechapel and Tate Galleries (1964), Lord Snowdon’s photographs of artists in Private View (1965), Antonioni’s London film Blow-Up (1966), and more. The book treats a film, a gallery, an exhibition, a book, a protest, as itself a ’work’: as a creative project in its own right, built from the resources to hand, subject to the pressures of the moment, comparable in its own way to the art it draws on or frames.
The illustrations include art works by David Hockney, Peter Blake, Derek Boshier, Pauline Boty, Bridget Riley, John Latham and Barry Flanagan, photographs by David Bailey, Ida Kar, Jorge Lewinski and Lord Snowdon, and a wide range of film stills, gallery installation shots, advertisements and press photography.” [information courtesy of Yale University Press]
SPECIFICATIONS Publisher: Paul Mellon Centre Distribution: Yale University Press Format: Hardback Size: 256 x 192mm Pages: 424pp Illustrations: 200/80 colour ISBN: 9781913107109 Price: £35
The programme was clearly close to Pauline Boty’s heart – she was regularly chosen as a dancer in the audience with her friend and fellow Pop artist Derek Boshier. The first documentary includes footage of them dancing in the party scene concluding Ken Russell’s “Pop Goes The Easel”. Further information from and links to the BBC website below:
“The story of Britain’s iconic 1960s music show, Ready Steady Go! The programme revolutionised television ‘for the kids’ and coincided with the tremendous explosion of British pop talent that took the world by storm. It championed emerging talent like The Beatles, The Who, Sandie Shaw, Cilla Black, Otis Redding and The Rolling Stones.”
The Story of Ready Steady Go! BBC4, 21:00, Friday 20th March 2020 We go behind the scenes and speak to the people who made it all happen, including original producer Vicki Wickham and the programme’s pioneering director, Michael Lindsay-Hogg. Plus further contributions from Annie Nightingale, Eric Burdon, Chris Farlowe, Mary Wilson, Martha Reeves, Paul Jones, Gerry Marsden and Jools Holland. Further information available here [link]
The Best of Ready Steady Go! BBC4, 22:00, Friday 20th March 2020 This priceless archive has rarely been seen and includes some of the most memorable performances from the greatest stars of the day. Tune in to see The Beatles perform Twist and Shout on a moving stage, The Rolling Stones presenting their very own episode, and Otis Redding’s sensational duet with Chris Farlowe and Eric Burdon. Other acts include Cilla Black, Lulu, and Martha and the Vandellas. Dusty Springfield also takes centre stage. Further information available here [link]