Eduardo Paolozzi: from utopia to dystopia 1928 - 1958
Heath, Clare Charlotte Olivia
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This thesis explores the early career of Eduardo Paolozzi (1924 – 2005), focusing in particular on his artworks of the 1940s and 1950s. Predominantly known for his post-World War Two activity as an eclectic artist, designer and pedagogue, Paolozzi emerged as an experimental alternative to the modernist formalism of Henry Moore’s generation and remains one of the acknowledged leaders of an artistic movement that helped invigorate the British art scene. The sheer volume and diversity of his creative output, however, its wide-ranging use of descriptive materials and profuse interests, has legitimised the now standard reception of his work as one of wilful, perhaps even whimsical, eclecticism. Thus, he has become simultaneously codified as British artist, child of Surrealism, and ‘father of Pop.’ The thesis presented here intends to offset the standard historiography of Paolozzi’s artistic development, employing instead an interpretation grounded in the artist’s Italian roots and which takes into consideration his exposure to wider avant-garde movements and trends. Such a re-evaluation enables sense to be made of the imagery and ideas present in his work, and gives shape to the superficial incoherence of the ‘fragmentary’ phases apparently marking his output. What emerges is an alternative trajectory, one that moves from the early collages, full of L'Esprit Nouveau and Futuristic enthusiasm for the New World, through his use of Greco-Roman art, mechanisation and Uomo Novo during the years of Fascism, to the more concerted reassessment of the modern post-War world that is embodied in his satirical brutalist sculptures and proto-Pop demythologies, these last works mapping an emergence out of totalitarianism and the rediscovery of ‘democratic and international values.’ In this new analysis, Paolozzi stands as one of the few international figures who consistently developed a mature and idiosyncratic rationale through which a new, non-Fascist modernism was reformulated.