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Art HERstory: Pauline Boty


Art HERstory: Pauline Boty

Art HERstory: Pauline Boty

Where would the world be if all women were the prim and proper homebodies society wants them to be? Chicks wouldn’t be able to wear pants, participate in civil liberties such as voting, be entitled to equal pay, or marry the guy (or gal) of their choice. I’m glad someone spoke up. We’ve all heard ‘well-behaved women seldom make history.’ No doubt about it. I live by this statement on the day-to-day. So did British artist Pauline Boty (1938-1966). She did what she wanted no matter how politically incorrect. She was well aware of the gender dynamics that dictated everything, and she consciously rebelled against them.

'With Love to Jean-Paul Belmondo' (1962). Looks like one of my old Word Up! magazines. Hearts and flowers around the one I love.

'With Love to Jean-Paul Belmondo' (1962). Looks like one of my old Word Up! magazines. Hearts and flowers around the one I love.

Pauline was put in her place from the very beginning. She was the youngest of four. She and her mother were the only girls in thehome. Her stern father made sure she was well aware of her gender. He even disapproved of Pauline attending the Wimbledon School of Art when she was awarded a scholarship in 1954. Mama Boty was Pauline’s biggest cheerleader and encouraged her baby girl to do whatever she felt. Ironically, Pauline’s mother was a frustrated artist who’s own education in art was denied by the Slade School of Fine Art. Guess why. She had kids. What a crock right?

'The Only Blonde in the World' (1963). Women are often given a value based on their physical appearance. Here, pauline criticizes the epitome of 1960's beauty.

'The Only Blonde in the World' (1963). Women are often given a value based on their physical appearance. Here, pauline criticizes the epitome of 1960's beauty.

Of course Pauline went to Wimbledon. Once there she excelled in her concentrations. She earned an Intermediate diploma in lithography and a National diploma in design in stained glass. She took her education a step further when she entered the School of Stained Glass at the Royal College of Art. Pauline earned the degrees and learned the techniques in school. All that was left was the addition of some creativity.

'A Man's World II' (1965). A collage of T&A taken from fine art and porn. The point? To show what easy access men had to sexualized images of the female body.

'A Man's World II' (1965). A collage of T&A taken from fine art and porn. The point? To show what easy access men had to sexualized images of the female body.

Upon leaving the collegiate setting, Pauline’s work became more experimental.  He focus went from the people and inanimate objects depicted in school to pop culture and social issues. She also branched out from her comfort zone of stained art. Pauline began to indulge in singing, dancing, writing poetry, and acting in her spare time.  As a matter of fact, Pauline’s amateur acting in school plays turned into something slightly major. The Spring following her graduation, Pauline and a group of art pals were featured in a BBC documentary called Pop Goes the Easel. The film aired March 22, 1962.

Paintbrushes were Pauline's weapon of choice. Her praise for women and their sexuality as well as her dislike for gender dynamics came out on canvas.

Paintbrushes were Pauline's weapon of choice. Her praise for women and their sexuality as well as her dislike for gender dynamics came out on canvas.

Pauline’s face on the small screen launched a brief acting career for the blonde beauty. She was an actress on Armchair Theatre, a drama series on ITV, and on BBC series Maigret. She also appeared in a few stage plays. The coolest side gig Pauline had was as a dancer on Top of the Pops and Ready Steady Go! Although at the peak of her television career, art remained Pauline’s first love. She wanted to go back to her studio, but her male counterparts encouraged her to continue acting and dancing because of her physical appearance. The press even fed into the sexism.  Scene ran a front page article that included the following line: ‘Actresses often have tiny brains. Painters often have large beards. Imagine a brainy actress who is also a painter and also a blonde and you have PAULINE BOTY.’

'My Colouring Book' (1963). The storyline of an uhappy love affair. Can you read it?

'My Colouring Book' (1963). The storyline of an uhappy love affair. Can you read it?

The title of Britain’s only female Pop artist put the ball in Pauline’s court. She openly expressed her resentment for the sexism she’d encountered in her life and celebrated her femininity and the almighty s-e-x. Most of the pieces include vibrant colors or chose red flowers, symbols for femininity, as the focal point. My favorite paintings by Pauline were teenybopper-esque representations of the sex symbols of her time. Elvis French, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Monica Vitti, and Marilyn Monroe were a few of the heartthrobs depicted.

'Monica Vitti with Heart' (1963). Sex was a major theme of Pauline's work. She chose to depict Monica Vitti because she was a sex symbol of the time.

'Monica Vitti with Heart' (1963). Sex was a major theme of Pauline's work. She chose to depict Monica Vitti because she was a sex symbol of the time.

In 1963, Pauline married her own heartthrob. She tied the knot with televison producer Clive Goodwin after a 10-day courtship. Oh, lets not doubt the lady. She still had her side guy, marrieddirector Philip Saville. Pauline’s flat with her hubby became the hang-out spot for pop icons like Bob Dylan, Michael White (producer of The Rocky Horror Picture Show), and Troy Kennedy Martin (screenwriter for The Italian Job).

'Countdown to Violence' (1964). This painting depicts various violent events of Pauline's that time that would lead to move violence on a higher scale. Events referred to include the assasination of JFK, Vietnam, and the Birmingham Race Riots.

'Countdown to Violence' (1964). This painting depicts various violent events of Pauline's that time that would lead to move violence on a higher scale. Events referred to include the assasination of JFK, Vietnam, and the Birmingham Race Riots.

Two years later a baby Boty was unexpectedly conceived. During a typical prenatal exam, the doctor discovered a cancerous tumor. Out of love for her unborn, Pauline refused an abortion which would allow her to take chemo to save her own life. Instead she smoked ganja to curve the cancer pain. In February 1966, Boty Goodwin was born. Unfortunately, the baby girl’s time with her mother would be cut short. Pauline Boty passed in July 1966, 5 months after the birth of her child.

Image Layout: Phaymiss

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One Response to “Art HERstory: Pauline Boty”

  1. Frances says:

    Great piece. I became interested in Pauline Boty after seeing a showing of that Pop Goes the Easel documentary. Great to see the collection of her works that you’ve drawn together and to read something about her that just isn’t about how beautiful she was!

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