The Major Periods

1962 – 1965: Early Pop Paintings

As one of the original wave of Pop artists Gerald Laing produced some of the most significant works of the British Pop movement. His paintings reproduced images of popular heroes such as starlets, film stars, drag racers, astronauts and skydivers. His 1962 portrait of Brigitte Bardot is an iconic work of the period and regularly features in major Pop retrospectives alongside Lincoln Convertible from 1964, a commemoration of the assassination of JFK.

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1965 – 1970: Utopian Abstract Sculpture

From 1965 Gerald Laing's painting evolved into abstract sculptures using the techniques and materials of car customisation - lacquering, spray-painting and chrome-plating on metal.

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1970 – 1973: Sculpture In The Landscape

A move from New York to the Highlands of Scotland in 1970 saw Gerald Laing's sculpture respond to the beauty, roughness and power of the surrounding landscape.

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1972 – 2010: Public Sculpture

Public sculptures include the the Bank Station Dragons; the Rugby Sculptures at Twickenham Stadium; the Cricketer at Lords; the Highland Clearances Memorial in Helmsdale, Sutherland and Axis Mundi in Edinburgh.

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1973 – 1980: Galina Series

Inspired by the figurative sculpture of the First World War Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner, in 1973 Gerald Laing began to model in clay and cast in bronze. The Galina Series and associated sculptures were his first works from this period.

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1982 – 2007: Portrait Heads

Gerald Laing's portrait work includes heads and reliefs of Luciano Pavarotti, Andy Warhol, Paul Getty and Sam Wanamaker.

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2002 – 2005: War Paintings

The Iraq war and the publication of images of torture at Abu Ghraib prison drew Gerald Laing back to painting for the first time in over three decades. The War Paintings series sees the starlets and all-American heroes of his early paintings take on new, more sinister roles.

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2004 – 2011: New Paintings

Returning to the style and subject matter of his early pop art paintings, Gerald Laing's latest paintings feature media images of contemporary celebrities including Amy Winehouse and Kate Moss.

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Cr010 starleti ltr clean rgb

Starlet I

CR 010

New York City


Oil on canvas

20 x 50 inches

Citations and Comments

I painted Starlet I during the summer of 1963 in Robert Indiana’s loft on Coenties Slip at the southern end on Manhattan. Coenties Slip is now a wind-swept concrete plaza, but then it was surrounded by mid-nineteenth century warehouses and one could sense the strong maritime history in the street names and in the architecture. It was an area favoured by artists long before Soho became fashionable. In the immediate neighbourhood lived Rauschenberg, Youngerman, Agnes Martin and James Rosenquist.

I was still a student at that time, and on a summer visit to New York; Bob gave me a job as his studio assistant, and space to do my own work. In London I had already made a number of paintings (Brigitte Bardot, Anna Karina, etc.) but since these were based on newspaper photographs they were monochrome. In New York I first began to used colour in my paintings, deriving them from such sources as Life Magazine, and emulating Bob’s meticulous technique in applying the colour, so that it became reminiscent of the effect produced by commercial silkscreen printing.

Gerald Laing, British Pop, (quoted in), exh. cat., Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2005, p.435

The painting of mine which is in the Julien Levy Estate is entitled Starlet I. It is in oil paint on canvas and is an early and first class example of a painting from my Pop Art period which extended only from 1962–1965.

I made this painting in Robert Indiana’s loft on Coenties Slip in Manhattan during the summer of 1963. At the time I was still a student at St. Martin’s School of Art in London, but I spent that summer in New York working for Indiana and he gave me space to do my own painting as well.

Like all my paintings at that time, it is a painting of a photographic advertisement, not of reality.

The source was a magazine ad; the technique refers to half-tone printing (the black and white area) and cheap commercial silkscreen printing (the coloured area).

It was sold to Julien Levy by my dealer Richard Feigen…I later used Starlet I as a source for one of the images in my portfolio of silkscreen prints entitled Baby Baby Wild Things which I published in 1968.

Gerald Laing, Tribute to Julien Levy, sale catalogue, 5, 6, 7 October, Tajan, Paris, 2004

These paintings [Starlet I and Starlet II], the precursors of a series of figure studies, are more accomplished solutions of the same problems which were posed earlier in that first half-tone painting, Lolita Through the Keyhole. They combine a more methodical and confident use of dots combined with the area of flat colour which were present from Navy Pilot onwards. The spacial ambiguity of the flat colour in conjunction with the half-tone areas seems more marked where the subject is a news-naked figure.

It is interesting to note that these first figure-paintings were done at a time when I was dutifully, as part of my academic training, daily during term time, painting from the nude model. Discoveries made while executing these purely ‘academic’ studies were of course of enormous value when approachhing the half-tone figures.

Starlets I and II were produced at a time of near-monastic seclusion in N.Y., partially self-inflicted and partially per force. They are in fact extremely sensual in both conception and, more particularly, in execution, in spite of the tidy mass-image sexuality with which they deal. The brisk sanitary perfection of the young girls is in some way echoed by the organic technique; the organic body is formalised in this way. Also, just as the pilot and driver are formalised by their accoutrements, so are these girls formal images; chosen as a type and wearing their uniform of nudity which displays the uniformity of their young bodies.

Gerald Laing, 'Aspen Notebook', unpublished manuscript, 1966

Catalogue Raisonné Information

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