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Remembering Nancy Fouts
Editorial / Artists

Remembering Nancy Fouts

19 Apr 2023 | 5 min read

The much-loved art world bon viveur passed away four years ago this month. We take a look back at what made her, and her work, so special.

The original rock n roll artist, Nancy Fouts had pedigree. Back in the 1960s, she designed album covers for artists including Manfred Mann and Steeleye Span before a Mad Men phase which saw her winning awards for her advertisements for the likes of Benson & Hedges and Virgin.

By all accounts, there was something about Fouts that made all and sundry fall in love with her. She was friends with everyone from Ai Weiwei to Sir Peter Blake. As Gavin Turk told The Guardian on her death, “She would take you excitedly down to her magical workshop in the basement to pull open drawers of feathers, watches, shells, eyeballs and jewellery tools. Her infectious laughter and flashing eyes would sparkle as she described with her maker’s hands her latest conception or discussed the affairs of the day in visual metaphor.”

Fouts’ pieces are equally beguiling. Like a tongue-in-cheek cabinet of curiosities, her sculptures and paintings provoke both laughter and further thought. Here, we take a look back at some of her most famous work…

Nancy Fouts

Nancy Fouts

via PAUL BROOMFIELD

The Silk Cut Commercial

Fouts’ surrealist sense of humour was at the fore of one of the most famous ad campaigns of all time. Devised for cigarette brand Silk Cut, it featured her work as a model maker and consisted of impactful visuals of sharp objects cutting through vibrant purple cloth, including one featuring a Swiss Army knife that resembled a scurrying insect and another with an iron embedded with spikes.

Benson & Hedges advertisement, 1992

Benson & Hedges advertisement, 1992

The Advertising Archives

The Tube Poster

In 1986, Fouts created an iconic poster for the London Underground with her then-husband as the duo Shirt Sleeve Studio. Every line was reproduced with fat trails of paint, while a tube of the stuff marked Pimlico at the edge of the map. Some of Fouts’s early advertising work remains in circulation, including the Pizza Express logo which she created in 1967 for £35.

Transport for London, Tate by Tube poster by Malcolm Fowler and Nancy Fouts of Shirt Sleeve Studio. This poster was nominated as one of the ten best posters in the world. It also earned a place in Campaign’s 100 posters of the 20th century.

Transport for London, Tate by Tube poster by Malcolm Fowler and Nancy Fouts of Shirt Sleeve Studio. This poster was nominated as one of the ten best posters in the world. It also earned a place in Campaign’s 100 posters of the 20th century.

via anatomised.com

Jethro Tull album

Shirt Sleeve Studio created album covers for some of the best known bands of the day – from Manfred Mann to Nana Mouskouri. Among them was an image for Jethro Tull’s Songs From The Wood which featured Fouts’ trademark surrealism in the form of a tree stump transformed into a record player.

Back cover of British progressive rock band, Jethro Tull's 1977 album, Songs From the Wood.

Back cover of British progressive rock band, Jethro Tull's 1977 album, Songs From the Wood.

Purse with Teeth

One of Fouts’s most famous artworks, this sculpture illustrates both her skill as a model maker (honed during her years in advertising) and her surreal sense of humour. Typical of the artist’s oeuvre, it’s exacting in its execution, even if the idea is pure whimsy, with a perfect set of teeth implanted into an old purse. This is a fantastic example of Fouts’ gift for breathing life into everyday objects.

Purse With Teeth, original, 2010

Purse With Teeth, original, 2010

"I don’t consciously produce macabre work, and certainly don’t consider it all to be macabre, although my dark sense of humour may be apparent at times!”

Nancy Fouts

Egg Box

Birds and eggs are recurring themes in Fouts’s work. In one piece (Baby Nest), a pregnant belly rises out of a nest; in several others, taxidermy chicks crowd under glass cloches. This piece reveals six eggs standing neatly in what first appears to be a nest but, on second glance, is an egg box fashioned out of twigs.

Installation view from Fags, Birds and a Couple of Guns: A Retrospective of the Weird and Wonderful at Hang-Up Gallery, London, 2020

Installation view from Fags, Birds and a Couple of Guns: A Retrospective of the Weird and Wonderful at Hang-Up Gallery, London, 2020

Salvatore Scarpa

House

Fouts’ former home caused a huge stir in the press when it was marketed after her death. It was a work of art in itself and a tribute to her unique and vibrant personality. A converted vicarage designed by the architect behind Alexandra Palace, it was packed with her collections – from antique books and oils of Christ to horse rosettes and vast collages of crosses and sacred hearts.

Installation view from Fags, Birds and a Couple of Guns: A Retrospective of the Weird and Wonderful at Hang-Up Gallery, London, 2020

Installation view from Fags, Birds and a Couple of Guns: A Retrospective of the Weird and Wonderful at Hang-Up Gallery, London, 2020

Salvatore Scarpa

Artefact Board #1

Nancy Fouts

Artefact Board #1

  • 2010
  • Religious ephemera, nails, wooden frame
  • 134 x 152 x 3 cm
  • Original

£25,000

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Nancy Fouts – Artefact Board #1

Game Board with Mask

Nancy Fouts

Game Board with Mask

  • 2012
  • Collected ephemera, game board
  • 44 x 44 cm (framed)
  • Original
  • Sold framed

£3,000

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Buy 'Nancy Fouts – Game Board with Mask' with 10 interest free instalments of £300.00

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When you make an offer, it means you are committed to buying the item if your offer is accepted. To make sure you get the item at the agreed price, we kindly ask that you finalise the sale within 48 hours of your offer being accepted. Thank you!

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Nancy Fouts – Game Board with Mask

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