Eduardo Paolozzi British, 1924-2005
Eduardo Paolozzi was one of the most inventive and prolific British artist who came to international prominence soon after the second world war. Chiefly a sculptor (and one of the first to react against the all-pervading influence of Henry Moore), Eduardo Paolozzi was also a highly original printmaker some of whose collage-based silkscreened images are among the finest examples of pop art - the style he was instrumental in shaping.
Picasso's influence is plain in the primitivistic sculptures, energetic drawings, and elegant, cubist-derived collages which Eduardo Paolozzi produced as a student. Their quality was immediately recognised, and in 1947 he was given a one-man exhibition at the Mayor Gallery, London.
By then Eduardo Paolozzi had moved to Paris, armed with letters of introduction to Brancusi, Braque, Giacometti and several other famous artists. It was in Paris that Eduardo Paolozzi also produced rudimentary collages from advertisements in American glossy magazines, the lurid covers of cheap novelettes, and illustrations from scientific books. They were inspired by Dada photomontage, but they were made chiefly for his own amusement, and only shown to friends some years later. Today they are regarded as important early examples of pop art.
Back in London, Eduardo Paolozzi briefly shared a studio with Lucian Freud and then with William Turnbull, whom he had met at the Slade. He also came into contact with Francis Bacon. The closest friendship, however, EDuardo Paolozzi built with Nigel Henderson, the brilliant experimental photographer.
During the early 1950s Eduardo Paolozzi worked on several architectural projects, making a fountain for the Festival of Britain on the South Bank and another for the Hamburg Garden Show of 1953. In the same year Eduardo Paolozzi was a finalist in the much-publicised international competition to design a monument to the Unknown Political Prisoner.
Collage remained central to Paolozzi's methods, both as printmaker and sculptor, for the rest of his career.
In his prints crude outlines of heads and standing figures were filled with fragmentary diagrams of automotive parts and other machines to suggest primitivistic robots. His sculpture was similar. The surfaces of his roughly cast, rudimentarily formed bronze heads and figures were thickly encrusted with the impressions of nuts, bolts, bits of toys, and other junk collected from dustbins and scrapyards. By turns horrifying, pathetic and comically ramshackle, these figures seemed to allude to the results of nuclear destruction, or to reflect the existential angst then current throughout Europe. They touched a contemporary nerve and they made his reputation.
Paolozzi's determination to make his art mirror a wide range of disparate ideas and information resulted in contributions to several unconventional and imaginative exhibitions. The most important were Parallel Of Life And Art (1953) and This Is Tomorrow (1956) both of which used photographs and installations to illustrate unexpected connections and affinities between art, science, technology, ethnography and archaeology.
During the same period Eduardo Paolozzi also established a reputation abroad. His work was shown at the Venice Biennale of 1952, in New Images of Man at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1959, and at Documents in Kassel the same year. In 1960 there was a retrospective at the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.
By then his sculpture had begun to change. A visiting professor at the school of art in Hamburg between 1960 and 1962 (where he taught Stuart Sutcliffe, one of the original Beatles), Paolozzi regularly visited the dry docks, collecting discarded components from the wrecking yards. He used these, together with standard engineering parts ordered from catalogues, to create sculptures which simultaneously suggested curious machines and totems from some lost but technologically advanced culture. The earliest were cast in bronze, but later examples were made by welding. Some were painted in bright colours so as to emphasise the geometric elements of which they were composed. Many were constructed at an engineering works near Ipswich with which Paolozzi remained associated for several years. The craftsmen there showed him the advantages of working with assistants, and from then on he regularly employed model makers and other technicians at every stage of his sculptural production.
Eduardo Paolozzi also treated printmaking with a new seriousness, and in 1965 created one of the masterpieces of pop art, As Is When - a portfolio of 12 screenprints improbably inspired by the life and work of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Other print portfolios followed, most notably Moonstrips Empire News (1967).
The 1960s were one of the most creative periods in Eduardo Paolozzi's career and full retrospective exhibition was held in Britain - at the Tate Gallery in 1971.
Commissions for public sculptures multiplied, first in Germany and then in Britain. Eduardo Paolozzi made doors for the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, an abstract monument for Euston Square in London, and mosaic decorations for Tottenham Court Road Underground station. He also created a large sculpture for the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh, and a bronze figure of Newton for the main entrance of the British Library.