Our Curator, Peter Hall, speaks about the origins of Pop Art and gives some top tips for seeing some great pieces when visiting The Lightbox.

If you are visiting the exhibition ‘Warhol and the World of Pop Art’ then make sure to head to the top floor to see some great pieces which could be considered as some of the first pieces of Pop Art. The artworks are part of The Ingram Collection of Modern British and Contemporary Art which is on loan to The Lightbox and on show in rotation around the building. These pieces are by Eduardo Paolozzi and Nigel Henderson, who were founding members of The Independent Group which has been considered as the beginnings of British Pop Art, a theory explored in the recent BBC Goes Pop documentary ‘Soup Cans & Superstars: How Pop Art Changed The World’.

After serving in the Second World War, Nigel Henderson studied at the Slade School of Art, where he met fellow artists Eduardo Paolozzi, William Turnbull and Richard Hamilton. Henderson’s lifelong friendship with Paolozzi is considered crucial to the development of British Pop Art. In 1952, they were both founding members of The Independent Group, a radical group of young artists, writers and thinkers which met at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London and challenged the dominant culture at the time which they considered elitist and strived to make it more inclusive of popular culture. The group were responsible for the discussion and beginnings of many of the basic ideas of British Pop Art. The Independent Group’s ground-breaking exhibition ‘This is Tomorrow’ in 1953 was an expression of the group’s interest in popular and commercial culture, including a series of environments and a juke box playing continuously.

Henderson worked in a variety of media, including photography, but is best known for his collage works. In the 1970s, Henderson began a new approach to his collages. He would take a single found image and work through various imaginary scenarios until all possibilities were fully exhausted. The first example of this new approach came about in the late 1970s in what is known as the ‘Lovely Linda’ series (on show at The Lightbox), when a student of Henderson’s showed him a print of a woman he had found on the floor of a bus and of which Henderson imagined that “it must have fallen from a wallet, where it had been conserved lovingly, gazed upon from time to time to provide a momentary lift - like a double-whisky”.

Eduardo Paolozzi began collecting images from popular American publications and keeping them in scrapbooks as a child. Paolozzi said that his collages were heavily influenced by Pablo Picasso’s synthetic Cubism. In 1947, while still an undergraduate at the Slade School of Art, he held his first solo exhibition which allowed him to leave London for Paris. It was there that he made his famous ‘Dr Pepper’ collage, which along with his other collages of the period have been named as the first Pop Art imagery in Britain. His collages were made up of images from popular American magazines which showed the freedom and consumerism which contrasted with the severe rationing in Britain in 1947.  Paulozzi also said that he was struck by the advertisements artistic value and their status of the new iconography of the modern world.  

So make sure you head up to the top floor and don’t miss seeing these pieces which show the rich beginnings of Pop Art!

Find out more about The Ingram Collection

Find out more about 'Warhol and the World of Pop Art'

Image credits: A collection of works by Eduardo Paolozzi and Nigel Henderson as part of The Ingram Collection of Modern British and Contemporary Art, Detail of Lucky Thirteen, 1974, From the Lovely Lind series, Collage by Nigel Henderson