Paulineboty.org is honoured to show the photo above for the first time. It was taken by Boty’s friend and fellow Royal College of Art student Geoffrey Reeve in the college’s Junior Common Room, which was originally on the first floor on the corner of Cromwell Place and Cromwell Road opposite the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. Behind Boty can be seen John Watson and Alan Cooper of The Temperance Seven rehearsing. The 1920s-style jazz band, formed at the RCA during 1957, had a UK #1 hit single in 1961 with “You’re Driving Me Crazy” produced by George Martin followed by “Pasadena”, which reached #4. More information on them can be found here [link]
Earlier this month the gouache on card work, created by Boty when a student at the Royal College of Art, sold for double its high estimate. The following image and details are all courtesy of Christie’s:
Produced in the first year of her studies at the RCA, this design already demonstrates Boty’s breadth of interests and talent for creative juxtapositions. The proportions and diptych arrangement seem made for church windows, but the content is far from ecclesiastical. Instead, the design features a dreamlike mix of architectural elements and a large letter ‘L’ framing figural elements including heads (painted frontally and in profile), and two lovers locked in an embrace. The assembly of disparate elements into a cohesive whole foreshadows Boty’s later Pop Art paintings and collages. It also reflects the influence of Charles Carey, who first taught Boty stained glass design at the Wimbledon Art School, and who encouraged students to use collage during the design process as a means of adding contemporary elements to an ancient artform.
Pauline Boty was a polymath who entered the Royal College of Art in 1958 to study stained glass design but became a leading light in the nascent Pop Art scene alongside contemporaries including Peter Blake and Derek Boshier. In this guise she produced paintings and collages which blended abstract elements with a profusion of imagery poached from pop culture, with surreal and often satirical results. She was also heavily involved with film and literature societies and agitated against some of the more egregious examples of contemporary architecture in London as a key organiser for the ‘Anti Uglies’.
Provenance The artist’s family. Private collection, London. Purchased by the present owner at the 2016 exhibition
PAULINE BOTY (1938-1966) Designs for stained glass window gouache on card 9 ¼ x 3 in. (23.5 x 7.6 cm.) each Executed circa 1958
Literature Exhibition catalogue, Pop Art Heroes Britain, London, Whitford Fine Art, 2016, pp. 26–27, no. 13, illustrated
Exhibited London, Whitford Fine Art, Pop Art Heroes Britain, May – July 2016, no. 13
Paulineboty.org: What were your first impressions when you met Pauline Boty? Derek Boshier: My first impressions on meeting Pauline were the same as almost everybody. She was a very vivacious, glamorous intellectual. You know. And a lot of fun –the fact that she should have died so early aged 28… I mean, she loved life, you know – and she knew how to live it. She was just good to be around really. And that aspect of her, knowing how to live life, really fed her paintings too.
PBO: Did Pauline express her frustration at having to study stained glass instead of art as she’d originally wanted to? DB: No. Mainly because she wasn’t a complainer. Politics though – Yes – but not her personal life. The Anti-Ugly March she organised for example, which I went on. She was the figurehead for that. The point about her is that she said her mind – not only in paintings with sensuality and sexuality, but she said it with architecture. I mean she was very direct.
PBO: And your painting “Pauline Boty Goes Digital [for Pauline Boty]”. How did that come about? DB: Well it’s a very large painting that I made in 2011. You know, I always think of Pauline and what she did and I’m often reminded of her when people write to me and ask me about her or “Pop Goes the Easel” and I remember my friendship with her. I was about to start a new series of paintings about smartphones and I just thought before I do that I’d like to do a homage to Pauline as it were, just to help keep her in people’s memory really.
Dating from Boty’s time at the RCA [Royal College of Art] this untitled work has hints of the sensuality she would develop further with some of her key Pop art paintings, but with a palette of autumnal hues she rarely used again. The work is of oil on card laid on canvas and at 69 x 51 cm is large compared to most other surviving works from the period. Excitingly and very unusually it is also prominently signed and dated “Boty.59” on the front.