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Last Updated: Friday, 22 April, 2005, 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK
Obituary: Sir Eduardo Paolozzi
By Robert Chaundy
BBC News

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi
Sir Eduardo Paolozzi was a pioneer of pop art sculpture

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, who has died at the age of 81, was regarded by many as the father of pop art in Britain.

But when he presented his images to a wider audience, his ideas came in for considerable derision.

He was born to Italian parents in 1924 in the port of Leith, near Edinburgh.

As a boy, young Eduardo spent many hours working in the family shop, which specialised in home-made ice cream, but also sold cigarettes.

It was this unlikely environment that sowed the first seeds of Paolozzi's artistic imagination.

Customers would give young Eduardo cards from the cigarette packets featuring Hollywood stars, aircraft and submarines.


These led to his lifelong fascination with the relationship between humans and machines.

Paolozzi's scrapbooks of pictures and advertisements from magazines, which he began as a boy, retained their fascination for him all his life.

A Paolozzi collage
Paolozzi's collages led to the birth of pop art
"They formed a vocabulary that could be manipulated into art," says Robin Spencer, of St Andrews University, who was a friend of Paolozzi. "They were a kind of dictionary for him."

Although only a painting of the Madonna was allowed on his bedroom wall, he would cut out pictures from magazines and paste them on the back of his wardrobe doors to create collages.

He was able to nurture his love of machinery by farming himself out for work at some of the Italian-owned fish and chip shops in his neighbourhood.

He used the proceeds to buy electric motors for construction sets.

Surrealists inspiration

World War II brought sudden interruption to Paolozzi's life. He recalled that he was treated "gently", but he and his father were placed in prison cells and then his father was killed when the ship in which he was travelling to Canada was sunk by a U-boat.

After the war, Paolozzi went to The Slade art school in London, but was distinctly uninspired by its traditional approach to life-drawing, beauty and the romantic past.

Paolozzi's Wealth sculpture
Paolozzi's Wealth sculpture
He resolved to go to Paris to meet real artists and, encouraged by his contact with Surrealists such as Giacometti, returned to London intent on blazing his own trail.

Paolozzi had his first one-man exhibition at a London gallery in 1947. Five years later, pop art was born, when he displayed his collages of cuttings from American magazines, advertising prospectuses and technological journals.

He described them as "ready-made metaphors", representing the popular dreams of the masses.

Mechanistic sculptures

Paolozzi's first commission was for a fountain at the 1951 Festival of Britain and he became noted for his mechanistic sculptures.

Among the most notable is a giant Vulcan in an Edinburgh gallery, climbing through two floors to the ceiling, and his Master of the Universe, based on William Blake's vision of Newton, with the figures often surfaced with cog wheels and machine parts.

Paolozzi in his studio in his 70s
Still working into his 70s
During the 1950s, he worked mainly in bronze, in large box-like formats. In the 1960s, his work became more colourful and included large totem-like figures, made up from casts of pieces of machinery and often brightly painted.

In the 1970s, Paolozzi made solemn machine-like forms and also box-like low reliefs, in bronze and in wood, sometimes designed to be hung on the wall, compartmented and filled with small carved figures.

Professor Christopher Frayling, of the Royal College of Art in London, says, "If a Martian came back in a post-nuclear world and found Paolozzi's work buried in the sand, the Martian would learn a hell of a lot about the civilisation of the 20th century. You can't say that about many artists."

Pop artist Paolozzi dies aged 81
22 Apr 05 |  Entertainment

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