Women in Cars by James Francis Gill - a prestigious series from one of the remaining Pop Art pioneers

Castle Fine Art is delighted to announce a new collection of works, Women in Cars, by the American Pop Art pioneer James Francis Gill. At the forefront of the Pop Art movement, in 1962 Gill’s artworks caught the eye of renowned art dealer Felix Landau known for bringing the artworks of Francis Bacon and Egon Schiele to the USA. Within a matter of weeks Gill’s famous ‘Marilyn Triptych’, only the second fine art portrait of the icon to be painted, was purchased, and exhibited by New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Read on to find out more about the art that kickstarted the iconic Pop Art movement and how Gill changed the art world forever.

Role Model (1063)

James Francis Gill

California Girl (1210)

James Francis Gill

Loved By Illusion (1245)

James Francis Gill

I Got It (1003)

James Francis Gill

Into The Night 2 (1549)

James Francis Gill

Blake (1070)

James Francis Gill

Marilyn Leaving (1051)

James Francis Gill

Before Weekend (1246)

James Francis Gill

I Shouldn't Do It (1215)

James Francis Gill

The pioneering work

James Francis Gill walked away from the world of celebrity at the height of his fame in the early 1970s, only to triumphantly re-emerge in the 1990s, and is now back in the limelight with huge success with both private collectors and galleries. Gill’s works are vibrant, exciting and visionary, with a huge influence on the Pop Art movement.

In 1962, at the very beginning of Gill’s career, his ’Marilyn Triptych’ was purchased by New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) a mere three weeks after it had been painted. The Marilyn Monroe triptych was painted shortly after her death, depicting the icon gradually turning away from the viewer in the three panels, and perceptively revealing her unhappiness behind the public image.

The artwork – featured in a January 25, 1963 article in LIFE magazine – symbolises Gill’s lasting influence on generations of artists. As one of the last living Pop Art pioneers, and one of the first to investigate the modern cult of celebrity, his unique take on iconic imagery has been re-discovered and its place in art history re-affirmed. 

It was this piece that made James Francis Gill a major name in the American art scene, after which he was asked to represent the USA at the Sao Paulo 9 Biennale in Brazil in 1967, alongside artists including Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol, and became internationally acclaimed.

Following a long list of celebrity commissions and collectors, including one of the early colour covers of TIME magazine, Gill made his international breakthrough at the Sao Paulo 9 Biennale in 1967, representing the USA as a figurehead of Pop Art among blue-chip artists including Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Edward Ruscha and Andy Warhol.

In 1972 Gill went into self-imposed exile to develop his artistic expression away from the constraints of the world’s media. During this time, his ‘Marilyn Triptych’ stayed in the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art, where it resides to this day.

Women in Cars

One of Pop Art’s hallmarks is its obsession with popular culture, and Gill’s Women in Cars series is firmly rooted in this. He began making the works in the 1960’s, when American magazines LIFE and TIME began printing paparazzi shots of film stars getting out of their cars. Gill was stimulated by them to incorporate large areas of colour into his paintings, combined with reflections and shapes in the windscreens – plus beautiful celebrities.

Women in Cars could offer something the magazines couldn’t – colour – and when the pieces began appearing in galleries, they were the epitome of cool modernity, and gave the public a chance to see celebrity in a new light. One of the earliest versions of the series, ‘Laughing Woman in Car and Close Up’ was purchased by and exhibited in MoMa between works by Picasso and Odilon Redon.

The Women in Cars works are still relevant today, even though social media has now replaced the paparazzi, with stars showing the intimate details of their own lives. Gill started to revisit the theme in the 1980s, experimenting with works in which he treated women and cars separately and also changed and updated the way he depicted the cars.

Gradually he developed more variations of Women in Cars and in the late 1990s and early 2000s his works showed more of a mix of abstraction and figuration, created using Gill’s love of media reproduction through printing, digital drawing and overlaying of paint to create colour variations and occasionally overlayered his own previous works with new colour and shapes. Throughout this process Gill finally transported the Women In Cars into the modern age by depicting women who have adapted to the spirit of the times.

His most recent works in the series, created from 2020 – 22, are acrylic paintings and studies are created with wonderful colours, and a youthful verve which belie the fact that James Francis Gill is now almost 90, he has remained true to his Pop Art roots.

Featured art (L-R): 'California Girl (1210)', 'Role Model (1063)', 'I Shouldn't Do It (1215)' by James Francis Gill. Mixed media original artworks, £11,750 each.

The artist who walked away...and his return

James Francis Gill began his career as an architectural designer, but moved from Texas to Los Angeles in 1962 where he met visionary dealer Felix Landau. Landau brought artists including Francis Bacon, David Hockney, Gustav Klimt and Egon Schele to the US market, and took Gill’s art into national museums and the homes of the rich and famous – John Wayne and Tony Curtis asked him to paint their portraits, and other collectors included actors Dennis Hopper, Lauren Bacall and Julie Christie.

He also painted the cover of an issue of TIME magazine, which had inspired the Women in Cars works, and Gill’s art made its way into major American museums across the country, as well as into the collections of major national corporations. However, in 1972, Gill walked away from the art scene and into a self-imposed exile home in northern California. He wanted to develop his artistic expression, without the constraints and expectations of the New York social scene which was becoming excessive and intrusive.

Gill never stopped painting, but didn´t show his works to the public again until the late 1990s when he received a call from writer David McCarthy who was writing an article for the Smithsonian Museum’s magazine. The subsequent piece marked the beginning of his rediscovery, and in 2005, a retrospective exhibition was held at the Museum of Fine Arts in his hometown of San Angelo, Texas.

James Francis Gill today

James Francis Gill’s work is as relevant as ever, with celebrity images still being of massive interest. His Women in Cars works mix contemporary culture with classic Pop Art images, so that when you own a James Francis Gill piece, you own a piece of Pop Art history, created by an artist who has had a series of prestigious exhibitions, and influenced generations of artists. Visit one of our 37 galleries around the UK or contact one of our expert art consultants to find out about owning one of these iconic images which are a must for any Pop Art collector.

Featured Artist

From the blog

Dan Lane - 'Heavy is the Head That Wears the Crown'


Dan Lane returns with two new limited edition artworks in his signature style - skulls mixed with thought-provoking elements - plus a bronze version of one of his most popular sculptures, 'When All is Equal'.

Paul Stephenson | After Warhol


Master printer Alexander Heinrici lent his expertise to the After Warhol collection by London-based artist Paul Stephenson. Watch the videos to see how they brought Andy Warhol's original acetates to life.

Pascale Taurua celebrates the power of the feminine


Pascale Taurua celebrates the power of the feminine in her new collection of stunning original art.

Thank you for signing up to our newsletter.

We'll be sending you an email with a verification link, just click it and you're good to go!

Join our mailing list for exclusive discounts, the latest art news, artist updates and more.

Your email is safe with us. For more information, see our privacy policy.

© Copyright Washington Green Retail Limited trading as Castle Fine Art. First published 2012, last updated 2024. Washington Green Retail Limited acts as a credit broker and offers credit products from Secure Trust Bank PLC trading as V12 Retail Finance.

Washington Green Retail Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Our registration number is 726395. Credit provided subject to age and status. Terms & Conditions Privacy Cookies V12 Finance