Peter Blake’s heartfelt Valentine’s painting reveals unrequited love for Pauline Boty

Peter Blake, Boy with Paintings (1957-59) © Peter Blake. All Rights Reserved, DACS/Artimage 2020

On Valentine’s Day, it seems appropriate that a self-portrait by UK artist Peter Blake celebrating the power of (unrequited) love has been acquired by Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. The work, Boy with Paintings (1957-59), shows a figure holding a Valentine’s card for the late artist Pauline Boty who died in 1966 aged 28. But Boty, a fellow student at the Royal College of Art, didn’t feel the same way about Blake, hence the tears that fall down the protagonist’s face (pop artist Blake was evidently struck hard by Cupid’s arrow). The lovelorn painting comes from the collection of the late curator and collector Muriel Wilson who, says Simon Martin, director of Pallant House Gallery “was a key figure in the British art world [and] was much admired by the artists whose careers she supported”. Blake’s emotional broken-heart canvas was acquired through the Acceptance in Lieu tax relief scheme; it will go on show at the gallery along with other works by artists such as David Hockney and Eduardo Paolozzi bequeathed to Pallant House Gallery by Wilson (A Life in Art: The Muriel Wilson Bequest, 15 February-7 June).