Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi was a sculptor and artist, widely considered to be one of the pioneers of Pop Art. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, to Italian immigrant parents, his family suffered a great tragedy whilst Paolozzi was sixteen. When Italy declared war on Britain in 1940, his father, grandfather and uncle all drowned on board the Arandora Star - the ship carrying 446 Italians to detainment in Canada - when it was sunk by a German U-boat. Paolozzi himself was detained in Saughton Prison, Edinburgh for 3 months.
Paolozzi studied art at Edinburgh College of Art and The Slade School of Art during the mid 1940s, after which he worked in Paris, where the surrealist art set he met there - including Fernand Leger and Georges Braque - influenced him greatly. Paolozzi established his own studio in Chelsea, which was filled with all the inspiration for his collages and sculptures - machine parts, books, comics, toys and found objects. In 1947 he produced the seminal collage work ‘I was a Rich Man’s Plaything’, often cited as the first work to invoke the word ‘Pop’ in 1952 Paolozzi co-founded the Independent Group, regarded as the precursor to the Pop Art movement. During the group’s first meeting, Paolozzi projected found images from American magazines, assembled as scrapbook collages. These images went on to form his famous ‘Bunk’ screenprint series and some of his most recognisable work.
Paolozzi always described his own work as surrealist, but his love for found and collected mass media images - the pin up girls, Hollywood stars, Coca-Cola adverts and ‘better homes’ of the 50’s - is what is so recognisable today as ‘Pop Art’. Paolozzi was interested in a new response to modernism, instigating a discussion with his work about ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture whilst predicting a new future filled with machines, computers and mechanical processes. This is reflected in his experimental printmaking techniques and use of industrial metals and plastics in his sculpture which often deconstruct organic figures into robotic and cubist structures. In his collages and prints, patterns of circuit boards and wires dissolve into coloured abstract forms, punctuated by bold images of celebrity and consumer culture.
Paolozzi died in 2005 and leaves a wide body of work, including the mosaics on the walls of Tottenham Court Road Tube Station and sculptures at Euston Station, The London Southbank, The British Library, Kew Gardens and his birthplace Edinburgh.