Inspiration: Pauline Boty

Do you ever read something interesting that sticks in your mind and suddenly pops up everywhere you look?

Photo by Lewis Morley

Long story short, I first read about Pauline Boty in this book.  A few days later I was sent the new Celia Birtwell book (more on that this week) and who should pop up in the first few pages?

Photo by Michael Ward

Pauline Boty was one of the founding members of the British Pop Art movement in the early 1960’s and died trgaically young from lukaemia at 28.  For many she’s a proto-feminist icon, an unusually sexually liberated woman who was struggling to be understood and have her work objectively evaluated in the days before the womens liberation movement.

My Colouring Book by Pauline Boty, 1963

Celia and some of her Heroes by Pauline Boty, 1963

Boty played with the notion of femininity and icons in her work.  She was Celia Birtwell’s neighbour on Addison Road in Notting Hill and painted a portrait of her surrounded by her artistic heroes. Her most famous painting is of Marilyn Monroe, titled ‘The Only Blonde in the World’. Most of her work was deeply personal – almost a precursor to Tracey Emin.

Detail from The Only Blonde in the World by Pauline Boty

Photo by Michael Ward

As well as an artist she was an actress, with a small part in Alfie as well as several parts in television.  She was also a dancer on Ready, Steady, Go.

Photo by Lewis Morley

Her death was untimely; Boty was pregnant when she was diagnosed with cancer and refused to have treatment until after her child was born.  She died five months after her daughter was born. Who knows what could have been?

3 thoughts on “Inspiration: Pauline Boty

  1. Beautiful, adorable, such a talented artist – her vision comes across more clearly and definitively to me than that of her contemporaries. That she should die so young is unbearably tragic. One grieves for her, and also the daughter she only knew for a few months, and who also died in tragic circumstances many years later.

    The only condolence is the brilliant light of Pauline’s cheerful being, which shines on. She’s an immortal.

  2. And then the tragic afterstory: her husband being treated like a drunk in a Hollywood hotel when he was having a brain haemorrhage. Her daughter, whom she died to give birth to, dying of a heroin overdose when just awarded two scholarships (literature and fine art) at UCLA.

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