Jann Haworth

Mae West, Shirley Temple & W. C. Fields


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Jann Haworth born 1942
Textiles, wood, synthetic hair, feathers, walking stick, earrings, necklace, plastic cigar, fabric doll and other materials
Unconfirmed: 1310 × 910 × 115 mm
Purchased 2012


Mae West, Shirley Temple & W.C. Fields 1967 is a low relief made of fabric-covered upholstered forms assembled on a timber frame and backboard. The method of construction is not unlike that which would be used for a sofa or armchair. While the figures’ clothes have been made from fabrics that would normally be used for coats, dresses and so on, all other aspects of the figures have been made from fabric in a more or less illusionistic way. The artist has recorded that the work has undergone minor restoration: the fabric of Fields’s coat was reversed to correct fading that had occurred over the years; West originally had a handbag and Temple a ‘sucker’, but these were lost. It was first exhibited in a solo exhibition at the Studio Marconi in Milan in 1968.

Haworth was one of very few women to be part of the pop art movement in London during the 1960s. She had arrived in the city from California in 1961 and attended the Slade School of Art. She was soon drawn into fashionable art circles and exhibited in the Young Contemporaries exhibition in 1963. However, Haworth set herself apart from other pop artists by making, principally, three-dimensional objects and using traditional female crafts such as needlework and upholstery. She saw this as an assertion of the value of traditional female activity.

Like many of her contemporaries, one of the primary subjects of Haworth’s early art was famous figures. The most prominent instance of this in her work is the assembly of cut-outs of famous figures on the cover of The Beatles’ album Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which she co-created in 1967 with her first husband, Peter Blake. Mae West, Shirley Temple & W.C. Fields, also dating from 1967, reflects a similar concern. Haworth engages with the idea of modern popular culture as a subject for art, but unlike some artists she also injects a degree of irony. The three characters in this work were among the most iconic actors of the inter-war period. As the child of a Hollywood art director, Haworth was steeped in the culture of American movies. While Blake’s art has often been discussed in terms of ‘fandom’ (the enthusiastic following of his subjects) Haworth’s often has a more sardonic tone. In this work she brought together the epitome of the Hollywood sex symbol (West), the drunk curmudgeon (Fields) and the sickly sweet child-actor (Temple) to form what she saw as the ultimate dysfunctional Hollywood family.

Further reading
Christopher Finch, Image as Language, Harmondsworth 1969.
Marco Livingstone, British Pop, exhibition catalogue, Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao 2005.
Jann Haworth: Artist’s Cut, exhibition catalogue, Mayor Gallery, London 2006.

Chris Stephens
October 2011

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