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Pauline Boty

British Painter, Collagist, Actress, and Dancer

Pauline Boty Photo

Born: March 6, 1938 - Croydon, England

Died: July 1, 1966 - London

"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."

Summary of Pauline Boty

Often dismissively referred to as an 'It-Girl' of 1960s London, Pauline Boty hung out with counterculture celebrities and rock stars, posed for magazines and famous photographers, and was in many ways a figure whose beauty and free-spirited nature exemplified the changing social conventions of the era. But this was only part of who Boty was, and her own artistic practice was innovative, engaging and essential to the development of British Pop Art. Due at least in part to the engrained sexism of the art world and prejudice against a woman who unashamedly celebrated her own sexuality, full historical recognition for Boty came late, after her tragic death at the age of only 28.

After long being championed by a small number of critics and contemporaries, and since the literal rediscovery of much of her work in an old barn, curators and academics have revaluated the impact of Boty's vibrant use of colour, shape and pop-cultural collage to reflect Britain in the 1960s, particularly in relation to the role of women.

Key Ideas

Boty's rediscovery disrupts the canonical narrative that British Pop Art was entirely defined by its three 'main' figures of Eduardo Paolozzi, Richard Hamilton, and Peter Blake. Boty's work engages in very similar operations and techniques, as well as mining similar conceptual ground. But whilst a contemporary of all three, even studying and exhibiting with Blake, Boty was rapidly forgotten after her early death, revealing the way in which the art historical canon systematically minimises the contribution of female artists.
Unlike some other female Pop Artists, Boty refused to create work that hid her vivacity or sense of fun. Her use of bright colours, humorous and/or glamorous imagery and foregrounding of her own desires and sexuality led to dismissals of her work as "girlish" or "slight", despite the success of male artists who approached their work in the same way. Since her rediscovery, this work is now seen as an important reclamation of female agency.
Boty's work is inherently subjective and tied to her own personality - like many Pop Artists, her personality and social life provides important context to her work. Her personal experiences of the society around her provide the subject matter for her paintings, foregrounding an individual perspective on the changing cultural conventions of 1960s Britain often overlooked.
Like many other Pop Artists, Boty was influenced by and participated in several other art forms alongside her painting. Working as a model, actor and dancer, Boty's social circle and its impact on her work reflects the intermingling of artistic forms common in the early 1960s, where musicians, filmmakers, painters and photographers were acutely aware of developments in each other's fields.
Pauline Boty Photo

Like many of the important cultural figures of the sixties, Pauline Boty was raised in an exceedingly ordinary household. Born in 1938 in the South London suburb of Croydon, her family were middle class, reserved and strictly Catholic. Her mother Veronica stayed at home as a housewife whilst her father, Albert, went out to work as an accountant.

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