In the summer of 2014 Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s Print Room was showing a selection of paper and film collages by the Scottish artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi.
Eduardo Paolozzi (Leith 1924 - London 2005) is known for his sculptures, films, silk-screen prints and textile designs, all featuring collage. The artist came across this technique in 1947, when he went to Paris and saw collages by many well-known Surrealists and Dadaists. To Paolozzi, collage was more than a technique; it was the very essence of his art. ‘All human experience is one big collage,’ said the artist. In One Big Collage, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen charted the development of Paolozzi’s oeuvre through some sixty works.
Paolozzi’s work was innovative in its use of images from popular culture. Paolozzi grew up in the period before the Second World War. As a child in the grim environment of crisis-hit Britain he became fascinated by American magazines and comic books, which he turned into collages. In the 1940s and 50s Paolozzi made a collage series he called Bunk!,; three of the works from it can be seen in the museum. Paolozzi showed some sheets from this series during his ground-breaking lecture in the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1952. The lecture was a plea for the use of images borrowed from popular culture as a source of inspiration for art in its own right. Although this was never his intention, he is often regarded as one of the pioneers of Pop Art. However, Paolozzi himself preferred to be seen as a Surrealist.
‘As is When’ en ‘Moonstrip Empire News. Vol I & II’
From its own collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen showed several graphic sheets from three different series, 'As is When' and 'Moonstrip Empire News. Vol I & II', which Paolozzi made in the 1960s. These sheets give a good idea of Paolozzi’s development as an artist: even though he was still interested in the same subjects, technically he was blazing a new trail. Whereas previously he made collages by cutting and pasting, in the 1960s he began increasingly to experiment with all kinds of printing techniques, working closely with printmaker Christopher Prater, the owner of the famous Kelpra Studio.
History of Nothing
As well as work on paper, the museum is also showing the film History of Nothing, which Paolozzi made with the director Denis Postle for the Royal Academy of Art in 1961-62. The film is a string of images that Paolozzi drew from his archives, together with some new collages. The endless stream of images lets viewers make their own connections. The result is a cinematic collage.
Rare in the Netherlands
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has the largest collection of works by Paolozzi in the Netherlands. In the 1960s the museum purchased two collage series by the artist. Tate Modern and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh also own works by Paolozzi.