Gendering the field: Pauline Boty and the predicament of the woman artist in the British pop art movement


This thesis explores the predicament of the woman Pop artist, focussing on British Pop Art and taking as its case study Pauline Boty (1938-66). It considers why so few women artists were involved with the movement, the nature of the contribution they might make and the reasons for their subsequent marginalisation and exclusion from the histories. It then pursues the art historical and theoretical implications of the resulting findings. To achieve these ends a considerable body of completely new empirical evidence is presented. A detailed statistical and discursive analysis of contemporary records (for example convocation lists and other documents from the Royal College of Art and Young Contemporaries exhibition catalogues) exposes the deep gender bias of the institutional and discursive field in which British Pop operated. The very difficult predicament of the woman artist (statistically more extreme than had been anticipated) is revealed: difficulties to which mainstream histories of Pop have remained oblivious. Pauline Boty's life and work , on which nothing had been published, are interrogated through a very wide range of primary evidence : numerous interviews with friends, colleagues, lovers, family members and others, private letters and photographs, media material and other documentation. With the help of an Arts Council grant her oeuvre, much of which had been dispersed and/or lost, was re-assembled, archived and exhibited and is, collectively, available for the first time in these pages. Through this evidence the experience and expression of a female subjectivity within the genre of Pop is brought to light. Boty's discursive absence over the last thirty years and recent re-appearance as an object of discourse are then observed and analysed. Relatively recent discursive shifts have made it possible to 'see' the work of the woman Pop artist in a way that had previously been difficult if not impossible. The cumulative findings of this thesis, informed by postmodern and feminist theory, led to a questioning of feminist and mainstream narratives. The thesis arrives at proposals for a revisionist view of both the Pop Art Movement and of feminist practice

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