Marilyn Monroe portrait bought for Boty show

The Art Fund has helped Wolverhampton Art Gallery buy a portrait of Marilyn Monroe by Pauline Boty ahead of a major exhibition of the British Pop artist's work.

Other contemporary portraits of Marilyn - including those by Richard Hamilton and Andy Warhol - present a more overtly sexualised image of the actress, but Boty's rendition is unusual because it presents an informal view. The painting will be included in Wolverhampton Art Gallery's major survey exhibition on Boty in 2013.

The artist

Having garnered relatively little critical acclaim during her short lifetime, Pauline Boty has lately come to be celebrated as one of the founders of British Pop Art and as a key British female artist.

Like many of her contemporaries, she took as her subject popular culture of the day, which is reflected in a press interview where she spoke of 'a nostalgia for NOW … painting … present day mythology.'

The work

This work depicts Marilyn Monroe, who fascinated Boty both as an actress and as a sex symbol. She is shown in a relaxed pose, wearing a plain blue top, which is partly covered in the foreground by red roses - a conventional symbol of female beauty and love (and often in Boty's work used to represent female genitalia).

At either side of Marilyn's image the roses are overpainted with bands of grey, pink and green. The painting was produced in 1962, the year in which Marilyn died.

Pauline Boty factfile

  • Boty literally brought Bob Dylan to England, collecting him from London Airport and putting him up in her apartment while he recorded.
  • The 1965 film Darling, starring Julie Christie, was rumoured to be based on Boty's affair with director Philip Saville.
  • Boty had a number of minor acting roles, including an uncredited appearance as one of Alfie's girlfriends in the 1966 Michael Caine film.
  • Sir David Frost once wrote that Boty was his 'ideal girl', while fellow artist Peter Blake was a persistent but ultimately unsuccessful suitor.
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