What is Pop Art? Why is Pauline Boty an important Pop artist? How can we use Pop Art to inspire our own artworks?
This resource introduces the Pop Art movement through the work of British Pop artist Pauline Boty.
Boty used imagery from the popular culture of the 1960s including films and pop music, to explore, celebrate and comment on culture and society from her perspective as a woman.
Use these lesson ideas to:
introduce students to Pop Art
learn about Pauline Boty
explore and analyse artworks
experiment with imagery, collage techniques and formal elements to create artworks inspired by Pop Art.
This Art and Design resource offers a series of activities that can be used together as a lesson plan or as individual components to integrate into your own scheme of work. It was devised for Key Stage 3/CfE Levels 3 and 4 students.
Art and design - Evaluate and analyse creative works - Actively engage in the creative process of art - Know about great artists and understand the historical and cultural development of their art forms - Produce creative work, explore ideas
Art and design – I have experimented with a range of media and technologies to create images and objects, using my understanding of their properties (EXA 3-02a) – I can respond to the work of artists and designers by discussing my thoughts and feelings. I can give and accept constructive comment on my own and others' work (EXA 3-07a)
Art and design - Students use their knowledge about the work of other artists to enrich and inform their work through analysis and evaluation - Students use a variety of processes - Students evaluate their work through discussion - Students explore, experiment with and apply the visual, tactile and sensory language of art
Exploring the expressive arts is essential to developing artistic skills and knowledge and it enables learners to become curious and creative individuals.
Progression step 4:
I can explore and experiment with my own and others’ creative ideas, demonstrating increasingly complex technical control, innovation, independent thinking and originality to develop my work with confidence, being able to explain my reasons behind choices made and evaluate their effectiveness on my creative work
I can explore creative work, understanding the personal, social, cultural and historical context, including the conventions of the period in which it was created.
I can investigate and understand how meaning is communicated through the ideas of other artists and performers.
Responding and reflecting, both as artist and audience, is a fundamental part of learning in the expressive arts.
Progression step 4:
I can effectively evaluate my own creative work and that of others showing increasing confidence to recognise and articulate strengths, and to demonstrate resilience and determination to improve.
I can apply knowledge and understanding of context when evaluating my own creative work and creative work by other people and from other places and times.
I can evaluate the effectiveness of a wide range of artistic techniques in producing meaning.
Creating combines skills and knowledge, drawing on the senses, inspiration and imagination.
Progression step 4:
I can use my experimentation and investigation to manipulate creative work with purpose and intent when communicating my ideas.
I can apply specialised technical skills in my creative work.
I can draw upon my experiences and knowledge to inform and develop strategies to overcome creative challenges with imagination and resilience.
About Pop Art
Pop Art was an art movement that emerged in Britain and America in the 1950s and flourished throughout the 1960s, becoming a global movement. Pop artists were inspired by popular culture and consumerism – including Hollywood movies, pop music, advertising and fashion.
Pop Art style is characterised by bright colours and bold compositions often influenced by advertising posters and graphic media.
What sparked Pop Art?
In the 1950s, young artists wanted to make art about things that were interesting and relevant to them, rather than the traditional subjects and themes they had been taught at art school or saw in museums.
They sought to get rid of the distinction between 'high art' (the 'serious' art in museums) and 'low art' (such as the art of comic books and advertising). They created a new visual language from the things they saw around them every day.
Introduce Pop Art to your students using the carousel of paintings below.
Encourage students to share their initial responses and to discuss the imagery and formal elements they can see in the artworks. Use the discussion prompts if helpful.
What are your first impressions of Pop Art? What does it look like? Think of words to describe what you can see.
What things do you think Pop artists were inspired by?
Think about art you have studied or seen from earlier in the twentieth century or nineteenth century. Do you think the subjects Pop artists chose to paint were different from subjects earlier artists had focused on?
Why do you think Pop Artists were inspired by popular culture?
If you updated Pop Art for the 2020s, who and what would you include in your artwork?
It may also be helpful to remind students of some of the earlier art movements and artists they have studied or may have seen.
To find out more about the artworks in the carousel, click the images to view the artwork pages.
Roy Lichtenstein (1923–1997)
Colour Her Gone 1962
Pauline Boty (1938–1966)
Tea Painting in an Illusionistic Style 1961
David Hockney (b.1937)
The Silken World of Michelangelo 1967
Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi (1924–2005)
Sweet Bowl 1967
Patrick Caulfield (1936–2005)
Standard Study #3 1963
Edward Ruscha (b.1937)
Marilyn Diptych 1962
Andy Warhol (1928–1987)
Who is Pauline Boty?
Pauline Boty (1938–1966) was one of the early pioneers of British Pop Art. As well as being an artist, Boty was a model and actress, appearing on stage and television and in films.
Like other Pop artists, she used imagery from popular culture – but she used this to explore female desires and interests as well as to criticise how women are often seen and portrayed in the media.
Boty studied art at Wimbledon College of Art, where one of her teachers encouraged her to explore collage.
She began to experiment with combining collage and painting, using found images from popular culture sources, such as magazines.
Boty went on to study at the Royal College of Art in London. She had hoped to study painting at the college, but the admission system was biased against women and she was advised to apply to the stained glass department instead.
Undeterred, she continued to paint in her student flat and had three paintings accepted for the prestigious Young Contemporaries national exhibition.
In 1961 she was included in one of the first exhibitions of Pop Art in Britain along with Peter Blake. In 1962 she was featured in a documentary film about Pop Art called Pop Goes the Easelwhich catapulted her into the public eye.
Like her male counterparts, Boty developed a visual language that referenced popular culture and celebrity icons.
Her depictions of women such as Marilyn Monroe reflect their sense of self and their sexuality. This was very different to the approach taken by many of the male Pop artists, who often reduced images of women such as Monroe to bland celebrities or objects for the male gaze. Boty also often painted her male idols – such as French film star Jean-Paul Belmondo – as sex symbols, overturning the expected female pin-up subject.
In her paired paintings, It's a Man's World (1964) she criticised stereotypical representations of women in the media. She painted men (including politicians, and scientists) alongside impressive architectural structures and juxtaposed this with a painting of women (all naked) depicted against a backdrop of a tropical beach.
Pauline Boty had her first solo show in 1963, in London. She exhibited paintings that featured celebrities, such as The Only Blonde in the World (1963) – a painting of Hollywood film star Marilyn Monroe.
Influence and legacy
Boty was a key figure in the British Pop Art movement, but after her death from cancer (at the tragically young age of 28) her work was largely forgotten. Perhaps because she was a woman and something of an 'It Girl' – a well-known figure in swinging sixties London – she wasn't taken as seriously as her male counterparts and was snubbed by mainstream art history.
It was only in the late 1990s that her work was rediscovered and her importance as a pioneer of Pop Art was recognised.
Discussion activity: 'The Only Blonde in the World'
Look at and discuss this painting with your students. Use the prompts below to get the discussion going, if helpful.
Describe the painting. What can you see?
What source material do you think Boty used for this painting? (Do you know who she has depicted in the painting?)
How has Pauline Boty combined more realistic imagery and abstraction and what is the effect of this?
How has Boty used formal elements such as colour and composition to put across the mood and atmosphere of the painting?
Does this painting fit in with what you know about the style and imagery of Pop Art? What makes it a Pop Art painting?
The painting shows a full-length portrait of Marilyn Monroe, a famous American film star from the 1950s and early 1960s. She is presented between two planes of flat green colour that are decorated with bold abstract shapes. It is as if we are looking through a doorway or a parted curtain and catching a glimpse of the star. The bright abstract shapes perhaps reflect Boty's stained glass training.
Her source image is a photograph of Marilyn Monroe. (The photograph was a press image for the 1959 film Some Like It Hot.) Boty has perhaps chosen to frame the image of Monroe between abstract planes to accentuate the fact that the image we often see of her is as an icon rather than a real person. She appears removed from us, separated by the flat planes of colour. The bright colours and dynamic abstract shapes also add dynamism and movement to the image – reflecting the movement of her walking.
Although Boty used a photograph as the source for the figure of Monroe, she didn't try to make the image look like a photograph. She painted Monroe using quick, gestural marks. These and the silvery-white colours that Boty used for her clothes, make the star seem full of life and effervescent (despite her death the previous year).
The celebrity subject matter, bold colours and the graphic quality of the abstract shapes reflect the qualities we associate with Pop Art.
Discussion activity: compare and contrast
Task students with comparing Pauline Boty's painting Colour Her Gone (1962) with American Pop artist Andy Warhol's Marilyn Diptych (1962). This could be a whole class activity or you could task students with working in pairs or small groups to discuss the artwork.
Encourage students to discuss the similarities and differences between the artworks and to think about the artists' intentions.
Use the discussion prompts below the artworks if helpful.
Who can you see depicted in these paintings?
Where do you think the source images for their paintings might have come from?
Discuss the formal elements: how has each artist used technique, composition, colour and mark-making?
Compare the mood or atmosphere of the paintings. What does each artwork make you think and feel? Do you respond in the same way to the artworks?
What impression of Marilyn Monroe do you think each artist wanted to put across?
We are used to seeing images of celebrities on the TV, the internet or on social media. Compare the images of Marilyn Monroe to celebrity images you might see today. Do you think the way celebrities appear and the way we respond to them has changed much in sixty years?
Both artworks depict Marilyn Monroe and were made in 1962 – soon after the death of the film star. Monroe was often featured in Pop artworks because she was an iconic celebrity with an immediately recognisable image that was much reproduced in the popular media in the late 1950s and 1960s.
Each artist has paid tribute to Monroe, using a photograph of her as their starting point. But their approaches to the subject are very different.
Marilyn Diptych by Andy Warhol
Warhol's artwork is one of 20 paintings he made of the film star in the months after her death. For Warhol, the figure of Monroe combined two themes that fascinated him – celebrity and mortality.
Warhol used a slick publicity photograph of Marilyn Monroe, made for the 1953 film Niagara, for this artwork. He used a silkscreen technique which allowed him to repeat the same image again and again on the canvas. Warhol would often paint into a silkscreened image with acrylic paint after printing it, adding bright colours and gestural marks with a brush.
By repeating the image of Monroe within this composition Warhol is perhaps commenting on the proliferation of images of celebrities and our familiarity with their images. (Their image becomes so familiar that we stop seeing them as individuals.)
On one side of the diptych, Monroe is presented in bold, brash colours that make her appear unreal and artificial. On the other side of the diptych, the black-and-white images of her become smudged and fade away, perhaps referencing her mortality.
Colour Her Gone by Pauline Boty
In Pauline Boty's painting, Marilyn Monroe appears more natural. The photograph she has used as her inspiration is more informal than Warhol's source photograph. Monroe wears a simple pale blue top, her hair is unstyled and her smile looks genuine. The source photograph looks as if it could be a snapshot taken by a friend rather than a formal publicity image.
Unlike Warhol, Boty shows Monroe as a real woman who seems happy in her self-assured femininity. She is surrounded by red roses, a symbol of love, romance and passion – which Boty often used to represent female sexuality.
Boty pays tribute to the life force that Monroe was. Whereas Warhol creates a more detached image – which he uses to contemplate themes of celebrity and mortality.
Marilyn Monroe perhaps resonated with Boty because, like Monroe, Boty was an attractive blonde woman who was often discussed and judged in relation to her looks rather than her talent. Boty shows us a more nuanced Monroe than the images of the star created by male Pop artists.
Art activity: create a Pop Art portrait
Task students with making a portrait inspired by Pop Art. This could be a portrait of themselves or of someone else.
They might choose to explore the idea of celebrity.
What do celebrity portraits today look like?
How do celebrities pose?
Could students make themselves look like a celebrity?
Is there a celebrity who represents the popular culture of the 2020s, in the way that Marilyn Monroe was an iconic symbol of the 1960s?
Portraits with a message
Students could use their portraits to criticise or satirise how people are presented in the media.
Or they could celebrate someone who they feel is important – a historical or a contemporary figure.
'Mary Seacole is my take on the iconic Andy Warhol/Marilyn Monroe diptych. Mary Seacole is commonly considered to be one of the greatest black Britons of all time, and my piece is a commentary on visibility, celebrity and Western ideals of femininity.' – Greg Bunbury
Medium, style and technique
Pop artists were united by their interest in popular culture. But although Pop Art is often characterised by bright flat colours and simple bold shapes there isn't just one Pop Art medium or style.
Encourage students to explore a range of Pop Art portraits as inspiration for their own projects. Use the artworks in the carousel below as a starting point or browse more Pop Art on Art UK.
You could look at Pop portraits as a class or assign students an artwork to analyse and respond to, tasking them with using it as an inspiration for their own portrait project.
Look at the media and techniques that the artist has used.
Analyse the formal qualities of the portrait, such as the colour, composition and mark-making.
What is the mood of the portrait? How does the person in the portrait come across?
What do you think was the artist's intention in creating the portrait?
Andy Warhol (1928–1987)
Towards a definitive statement on the coming trends in men's wear and accessories (a) Together let us explore the stars 1962
Richard Hamilton (1922–2011)
The Beatles 1962 1963–1968
Peter Blake (b.1932)
David Ilienthal 1952
Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi (1924–2005)
In the Car 1963
Roy Lichtenstein (1923–1997)
Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi (1924–2005)
Self-Portrait with Badges 1961
Peter Blake (b.1932)
Art activity: create a cut-and-paste Pop Art collage
Collage was used by many Pop artists as a way of introducing imagery from popular culture directly into their artworks. As a non-traditional art technique, it also appealed to Pop artists.
Task students with creating a Pop Art style collage using a mix of imagery from the everyday.
You could introduce the activity by asking them:
If you updated Pop Art to reflect pop culture in the 2020s, what imagery would you include?
Imagery and technique ideas
Students could use:
images, slogans and texts from advertising
characters or scenes from films, TV series or computer games
images from news channels, social media or newspapers
photographs of celebrities
lyrics from pop songs.
Their artwork could be a collage on paper using images cut out from magazines or printed from a computer. Or you could task students with creating a digital artwork on a computer or tablet, using photo editing tools.
Mood, atmosphere and message
Encourage students to think about the mood, atmosphere – or message – that they want to put across in their collage.
It could be a fun celebration of popular culture generally.
It might express their own tastes – reflecting things they like or find interesting.
They may choose to put across a message in their work. For example, they could address the influence and impact of social media on contemporary life.
Art activity: Pop Art and activism
British Pop artists in particular often used their art to reflect on and criticise what was happening in society.
As well as exploring the female experience in relation to society, Pauline Boty responded to current politics. In Countdown to Violence (1964) she reflects on the events of 1963 and the history of male violence more generally. The painting includes an image of assassinated President John F. Kennedy, a coffin wrapped in the American flag and a newspaper image showing police violence against Black people during the 1963 race riots in America.
Task students with creating an activist artwork using bold Pop Art techniques. You could assign them a subject that relates to an issue they may have studied in other subjects – such as injustice, climate change, pollution, or the damaging effects of consumerism on the environment.
What type of imagery would help put their message across?
Could text within their artwork help clarify their message or make it more powerful?
Which Pop Art media and techniques might be most suitable for their ideas?
How might they use formal qualities such as composition and colour to create an eye-catching, impactful artwork?