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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Sir Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi (1924–2005)

Sculptor, printmaker, collage artist, ceramicist, mosaic designer, film-maker and teacher. He was born in Leith, Scotland, the son of an immigrant Italian ice-cream seller, with whom he was interned as an enemy alien in Saughton jail when Italy declared war in 1940. On his release he studied calligraphy at Edinburgh College of Art, and then, after a period of conscription, enrolled at the Slade School of Art, London. In 1947 he moved to Paris, where his contact with the artists of the Dada and Surrealist movements encouraged him to adopt the techniques of montage and assemblage, as well as the attitude of critical irreverence, that would form the bedrock of his mature practice as an artist. He returned to the UK in 1949, and two years later was commissioned to make a fountain for the Festival of Britain, his first important public work. In 1952 he helped to establish the Independent Group, whose discussions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, explored the relevance to art of science, technology and, most importantly for the development of British Pop Art, the mass media and advertising. His first solo exhibition in the UK was at the Mayor Gallery, London, in 1947, and his work was also represented at the 1952 Venice Biennale, as well as in the ground-breaking ‘This is Tomorrow’ exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1956. Among the vast number of public commissions he carried out over the subsequent half century, one of the best known is the series of mural panels he designed for Tottenham Court Road tube station (completed in 1985; partially restored in 2015, with some panels acquired by the University of Edinburgh), which adapted the complex decorative geometry of his silkscreen prints to the requirements of mosaic. A similar abstract idiom was used in the four doors in cast aluminium he made for the Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow (1976–80). More specifically figurative commissions include the cast-iron Anton Bruckner at Linz, Austria (1977); the bronze Master of the Universe in Kowloon Park, Hong Kong (1987–88); and Newton after William Blake, also in bronze, outside the British Library, London (1995). An artist of prodigious versatility, and with an encyclopaedic range of interests, he also had an immense influence on art education, occupying teaching posts at different times in London, Cologne and Munich, as well as serving as Artist-in-Residence at the University of St Andrews in 1979. He was appointed Her Majesty’s Sculptor in Ordinary in Scotland in 1986, and was knighted in 1989. Towards the end of his life he began to renew his professional and personal ties with Edinburgh, and in 1994 gifted a collection of 3,800 sculptures and fragments, together with his library of 3,000 books, to the National Galleries of Scotland. A reconstruction of his studio, designed by his former assistant Nick Gorse, now forms the centrepiece of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art’s Modern Two, the former Dean Gallery, Edinburgh.

Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 45, 235–37, 449–51; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of South London, Liverpool, 2007, pp. 177–78; F. Lloyd et al, Public Sculpture of Outer South and West London, Liverpool, 2011, pp. 247–48; R. McKenzie, Public Sculpture of Edinburgh (2 vols), Liverpool, 2018, vol. 1, pp. 383–86, 418–20, 437, vol. 2, pp. xviii, 7, 82, 174–79; F. Pearson, ‘Paolozzi and Freedom’, Scottish Society for Art History Newsletter, no. 44, winter 2013/14, pp. 7-10; E. Whitford, The Guardian, 22 April 2005 (obit.).

Ray McKenzie 2018

Paolozzi, Eduardo Luigi, Sir

Ida Kar, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, vintage bromide print,
12 November 1958; NPG x13794
© National Portrait Gallery, London