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The Life of Artist Pauline Boty
By Paul Rance

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Pauline Boty was one of the great British female artists of the 20th Century, and she gained fame through her Pop art paintings. Her work was also seen as some of the earliest examples of pro-feminist art.

Early Promise

Born in Carshalton, Surrey on March 6th, 1938, and from a Catholic family, Pauline showed her flair for art as a teenager, when she was awarded a scholarship to Wimbledon School of Art in 1954. Pauline had a rebellious streak, which coloured much of her work throughout her career, and she attended the school despite opposition from her father.

In 1956 and 1958, Pauline Boty won two diplomas - for lithography and stained glass respectively. Her future direction, though, was to be in painting and collage. She was to become increasingly more interested in popular culture, and would go on to merge art with the vibrant popular culture around her. Pauline herself had striking looks, and was called the Wimbledon Bardot in her youth, due to the facial similarities between her and French actress Brigitte Bardot.

Young Contemporaries Exhibition

As early as 1957, Pauline Boty was seen as one of the bright young things of British art, and her work was showcased at the Young Contemporaries exhibition. Still in her teens, Pauline's work was featured alongside that of another major young British female artist, Bridget Riley.

Between 1959 and 1961, Pauline Boty attended the School of Stained Glass at the Royal College of Art. During this time Pauline had also become friendly with future legendary figures of British art such as Peter Blake and David Hockney. Pauline's creative side flourished during this time, as she wrote poetry, and performed as an actress, singer and dancer.

1961 was Pauline's most important year to date, and the Blake, Boty, Porter, Reeve show in London was seen as one of the art exhibitions that launched the British Pop art movement. Pauline took advantage of other opportunities that were now coming her way, including acting in TV dramas, making a brief appearance in the film Alfie, and being a dancer on iconic British TV pop music shows, Top of the Pops and Ready Steady Go! The '60s, though, were still a time when the media would often focus more on looks than talent, and that was often the case with Pauline.

Marriage and Celebrity Friends

With the 1960s in full swing, Pauline Boty became a friend of Bob Dylan, painted Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley, and won rave reviews for her first solo exhibition in 1963. In the same year she married TV producer Clive Goodwin. Goodwin's flat was a hive of the great and good of '60s popular culture, as guests included Dylan, Blake, Hockney, poet Roger McGough, and playwright Kenneth Tynan.

Goodwin was a big influence on Pauline's work becoming more political in the mid-1960s, as it reflected dramatic events such as the Vietnam War and John F. Kennedy's assassination. It's a Man's World I and It's a Man's World II became two of Pauline Boty's most famous works, with both having male masculinity as a central theme.

Tragedy and Legacy

Tragically, Pauline Boty's flame was only to burn for a desperately short time. She became pregnant in 1965, but it was also discovered that she had cancer. Turning down the option of an abortion, and fearing chemotherapy would affect her unborn child, Pauline gave birth to a daughter, Boty Goodwin, in the February of 1966. Pauline herself passed away on July 1st, 1966. By a sick twist of fate, Boty would also die in her late 20s.

Though a somewhat forgotten figure in British art, Pauline Boty opened the door for a stronger female voice in all the arts. She was also one of the best examples of the dynamic creatives who peppered the 1960s.

Pauline Boty: Pop Artist and Woman by Sue Tate book cover

Available from Pauline Boty: Pop Artist and Woman
Sue Tate


Birth Name Pauline Boty
Born March 6, 1938
Carshalton, Surrey, England
Died July 1, 1966 (aged 28)
Royal Marsden Hospital, London, England
Nationality British; English
Training Wimbledon School of Art; Royal College of Art, London
Movement Pop art
Most Famous Works Include Countdown to Violence (1964), It's a Man's World I (1964), It's a Man's World II (1965-66)

Copyright © 2019 Paul Rance