During the 1950s the austerity of post-war Britain was gradually displaced by a growing consumer culture. By 1957, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan could claim that most Britons had ‘never had it so good’. 

A small number of artists, mostly associated with the Independent Group at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, engaged with the imagery of this new modernity, insisting on an appreciation of popular imagery such as pin-up girls, science fiction, car design and the cinema. They did not necessarily celebrate this imagery and its consumerist values, but they believed that ‘pop art’ was as worthy of critical analysis as fine art.

BUNK is the title for a series of works that were originally pages of a scrapbook in which Paolozzi had stuck cuttings from magazines, mostly given to him by American ex-servicemen in Paris in the late 1940s. The word ‘BUNK’ stems from Henry Ford’s statement, ‘History is more or less bunk . we want to live in the present’. It reflects Paolozzi’s belief that art should respond to contemporary culture.

Hamilton made several paintings on the theme of the relationship between women and machines. The substitution of a dollar sign for the initial letter of ‘She’ indicates that he saw a relationship between the growing American-influenced consumer culture and the role and sexuality of women.

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, 'Meet the People' 1948

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi
Meet the People 1948
Collage mounted on card
support: 359 x 241 mm
Presented by the artist 1971© The estate of Eduardo Paolozzi

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Richard Hamilton, '$he(1958)' 1982

Richard Hamilton
$he(1958) 1982
Collotype and screenprint
image: 384 x 280 mm
Presented by Tate Members 2010© The estate of Richard Hamilton

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Hamilton based this composition on a still from Shockproof, a late-1940s B-movie. As in the original still, the woman stands transfixed, by what we don’t know. But her setting has been transformed into a modern interior, combining the studio of painter Larry Rivers, and a stylish Eames chair in metal relief. 

Richard Hamilton, 'Interior II' 1964

Richard Hamilton
Interior II 1964
Oil, cellulose paint and collage on board
support: 1219 x 1626 mm frame: 1425 x 1830 x 100 mm
Purchased 1967© The estate of Richard Hamilton

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Peter Blake, 'Self-Portrait with Badges' 1961

Peter Blake
Self-Portrait with Badges 1961
Oil on board
support: 1743 x 1219 mm frame: 1792 x 1265 x 72 mm
Presented by the Moores Family Charitable Foundation to celebrate the John Moores Liverpool Exhibition 1979© Peter Blake 2002. All rights reserved, DACS

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This painting has been seen as a parody of Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy, one of the most famous works of British art. Here, however, the blue is that of Blake’s denim jacket and jeans. In 1961 these would have been seen as the epitome of American popular culture and the youthful rebellion represented by James Dean.