Allen Jones was about to leave for New York, where he spent the 1964-65 academic year with his wife, when he painted this small picture in June 1964, one of a series depicting male/female couples and fused figures on which he had embarked in 1963 with such oil paintings as Man/Woman (Tate, London) and Hermaphrodite (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), and which culminated in 1965 in a painting spanning just over three metres, Female and Male Diptych (Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.). The imagery found expression also in a series of eight colour lithographs published in 1964, Concerning Marriages, which on a private level celebrated his recent wedding but which also expressed a conviction arising from his reading of C.G. Jung and Friedrick Nietzsche about the creative impulse being a fusion of male and female principles. As in those prints, figures are shown floating free amongst clouds, as liberated from gravity as Jones's painterly early Pop style was from the conventions of academic figure painting.
The central figure, a woman in an itsy bitsy, teeny weeny, yellow polka dot bikini - as in the admittedly cheesy pop song that had been an international hit for Brian Hyland in 1960 - relates to imagery seen in earlier works by Jones made in a similarly cheeky, erotic and joyful spirit, such as the painting Bikini Baby, 1962 (private collection) and colour lithographs such as Red and Green Baby, 1962 and Bikini, 1963. The daring colour scheme of vivid red, blue, yellow, green and black, however, typical of the paintings he made during and after his brief spell at the Royal College of Art in 1959-60, demonstrates his allegiance to early modernist abstraction and particularly to the work of Delaunay, Kandinsky and Miró, just as the ambiguous rendering of the figures abutting each other suggests his devotion to the automatic drawing of the Surrealists and the psychoanalytical idea of spontaneous image-making. The result is typical of the surprising collisions between high art modernism and low-brow culture that characterised his first phase as a Pop artist.
We are very grateful to Marco Livingstone for preparing this catalogue entry.