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Eduardo Paolozzi

British Collage Artist and Sculptor

Eduardo Paolozzi Photo
Born: March 7, 1924
Leith, Scotland
Died: April 22, 2005
London, England
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I suppose I am interested, above all, in investigating the golden ability of the artist to achieve a metamorphosis of quite ordinary things into something wonderful and extraordinary.
Eduardo Paolozzi Signature

Summary of Eduardo Paolozzi

Eduardo Paolozzi was a prolific and inventive artist most known for his marriage of Surrealism's early principles with brave new elements of popular culture, modern machinery and technology. He was raised in the shadows of World War II in a family deeply affected by the divisive nature of a country involved in conflict, which birthed his lifelong exploration into the many ways humans are influenced by external, uncontrollable forces. This exploration would come to inform a vast and various body of work that vacillated between the darker and lighter consequences of society's advancements and its so-called progress. On the one hand, he would create abstract sculptures, which were dark and brutal in both material and form, portraying the idea of man as a mere assemblage of parts in an overall machine. On the other hand, he would create collages, brighter in nature that reflected the way contemporary culture and mass media influenced individual identity. Some of these collages, with their appropriation of American advertising's look and feel would inspire the future Pop art movement.

Key Ideas

Biography of Eduardo Paolozzi

Eduardo Paolozzi Photo

Eduardo Paolozzi's parents immigrated to Scotland from Italy where the artist was born in Leith, an area north of Edinburgh. They owned an ice cream parlor and as a child, Paolozzi enjoyed collecting cigarette packet cards, usually featuring Hollywood stars or military vehicles such as airplanes, prompting a life-long fascination with both American culture and the relationship between people and machinery.

Important Art by Eduardo Paolozzi

I was a rich man's plaything (1947)

I was a rich man's plaything (1947)

This collage was made by Paolozzi as part of a series called "Bunk," composed of images from American magazines, given to Paolozzi by American ex-soldiers in Paris. A bunk can be seen to mean two things: the shell-like bed soldiers in service sleep on or a synonym for "nonsense." Both cases conjure the ideas of soldiers, stationed far from home, perusing periodicals in the privacy of their sleeping quarters at night in order to fantasize, or gaze nostalgically, about a seemingly more normal life back home, lured by the glossy pages of a magazine.

The piece includes the cover of a magazine called "Intimate Confessions," which features a voluptuous woman who, it is implied, spills her secrets inside the magazine. The inclusion of the cherry pie posits a tongue in cheek wink to the similar treatment of women and food in what was becoming new visual language in American advertising after World War II. The woman is faced with a hand holding a gun, which has fired the cartoonish word "pop!" An airplane with a propaganda-type message of jolly patriotism flies in the lower left corner alluding to the disconnect between the manipulations of mass media and the realities of day to day life, which at this time for Paolozzi were steeped in a country dealing with the more gloomy aftermaths of a difficult war.

Paolozzi was fascinated with American culture as a boy, perhaps as a way to escape a contrasting life at home, which from very early on was steeped in the notions of man being vulnerable to the workings of an overarching government. Looking toward brighter, shinier culture as a pastime was a worthy escape mechanism and this series explored this practice by compiling an image very much like the advertisements being used to sell certain ideal versions of a once removed lifestyle.

It was the first of its kind and resonated greatly within the current circle of British artists who were equally looking outward to America with its slick and robust confidence to cull their images and ideas on direct opposition to the stale tradition of art in their own country. This is considered to be the first use of the word "pop" in art of this type, and is credited for launching the Pop art movement when Paolozzi finally shared it with artists from the Independent Group in 1952. His work was original, crude and rudimentary with dog-eared and dirty cuttings on an uncleaned piece of wood. But it would become a key source of inspiration to more polished work by artists such as Richard Hamilton and Andy Warhol working in the fresh, new genre.

Dr Pepper (1948)

Dr Pepper (1948)

This work by Paolozzi was also made as part of his "Bunk" series, drawing inspiration from Surrealist and Dadaist collage works, such as those of Max Ernst and Hannah Hoch. Paolozzi cut colorful images from advertisements he found in American magazines and assembled them to create a montage of the blossoming American consumer culture. He included cartoon and photographed images of attractive women being used to market products, domestic appliances and cars which became the symbols of a post-War boom, and the branded "Dr. Pepper" soft drink.

The compilation of colorful images meant to sell a happy existence that could be available to all was alluring to Paolozzi because rationing was still in place in Britain in 1948, and economic conditions were hard in a country on the verge of bankruptcy. He was looking at American consumerism from an outsider's perspective, implicitly highlighting the differences between the two countries. He was fascinated by the medium, and wrote "where the event of selling tinned pears was transformed into multi-colored dreams, where sensuality and virility combined to form, in our view, an art form more subtle and fulfilling than the orthodox choice of either the Tate Gallery or the Royal Academy."

Two Forms on a Rod (1948-49)

Two Forms on a Rod (1948-49)

This tabletop bronze sculpture is an abstract composition made up of two unexpected shapes hanging from a pole between two supporting pillars. A degree of symmetry creates a visually balanced whole. However, a feeling of discomfort is created by the strange forms, which seem to have been impaled on the rod that suspends them. The imagery, although emphatically abstract, hints at sexual forms in the existence of the short inner rods which seem to reach toward each other for interaction, asking the viewer to question their visual associations in a way that is typical of Surrealist art.

The work clearly shows the influence of the Surrealist group Paolozzi became familiar with in Paris at this time, especially Alberto Giacometti. Although Giacometti's artistic style had moved on from Surrealism by the late 1940s, Paolozzi is looking back to the earlier aesthetic of the movement from the 1920s and 1930s and offering his own interpretation of Surrealist ideas.

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Content compiled and written by Anna Souter

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Kimberly Nichols

"Eduardo Paolozzi Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Anna Souter
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Kimberly Nichols
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First published on 01 Dec 2016. Updated and modified regularly
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