If the movement known as Pop Art has a birthplace and a home, you’d probably go with London for the first and New York for the second. It was in the Big Smoke in the early 1950s that a group of artists coalesced around newly-formed co-operative The Independent Group and laid the groundwork. It was in the Big Apple a few years later that people such as Roy Lichtenstein came to prominence.

As a million cards and posters will attest, Pop Art today is synonymous in most people’s minds with the huge, dotted, cartoon-type paintings which the American made his trademark.

But in your mental map of Pop Art, keep a couple of pins aside for Albert Street, close to the top of Edinburgh’s Leith Walk, and Crown Place, a few hundred metres downhill towards the port itself.

It was here, at 10 Albert Street, that Italian migrant family the Paolozzis had their sweet shop, and in Crown Place that a son, Eduardo, was born in 1924 – a boy who would grow up to become one of the co-founders and leading lights of The Independent Group, a fact which gives him as much of a claim to be the Father of Pop Art as anyone, Lichtenstein included.

To mark the centenary of his birth the National Galleries of Scotland are mounting Paolozzi At 100, a three-month exhibition of the artist’s work. It will be hosted at Modern Two, the same venue which currently houses a recreation of Paolozzi’s studio as well as his sculpture Vulcan – a towering, robotic, seven metre tall, floor-to-ceiling presence in the area between the gallery’s cafe and shop.

The Herald: Eduardo PaolozziEduardo Paolozzi (Image: free)

Examples of Paolozzi’s Pop Art are included, of course, though as exhibition organiser Kerry Watson admits, there was more to the Scots-Italian artist than just that. Consequently, it isn’t always easy to know where to file him.

“The defining moment is probably his Bunk collection in 1952 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, when he shows collaged images where he’s using found materials from magazines,” she says.

“A lot of that comes out of his interest in Surrealism but that’s also the moment at which everyone points towards him as the father of Pop Art – that injection of popular culture and the showing of these supposedly low culture materials as part of somebody’s fine art practice.”

But, she adds, “he’s such a prolific artist, his practice is so diverse and it changes so dramatically across his career … He pulls influences from all over the place, perhaps that’s why his own work is so eclectic.”

To reflect that breadth, the new show also aims to shine a light on lesser-known areas of Paolozzi’s life and work.

“Hopefully it’ll show people something new and a few things that they’ve maybe not seen before, and aspects of his practice that might not be as visible,” says Watson.

“What I have tried to do is focus on particular periods and aspects of his career and his output.”

One room focuses on early works from the late 1940s through the early 1950s, using as a starting point Paolozzi’s time in Paris from 1947 to 1949. A second room examines the period between the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The Herald: Eduardo Paolozzi's workEduardo Paolozzi's work (Image: free)

It looks at Paolozzi’s vivid print-making and textile work as well as his various design collaborations. Among these is an exquisite series of six bone china dinner plates for Wedgwood, each bearing his trademark geometric designs in gold, silver and bronze and presented in a box of lurid pink Perspex. Definitely too beautiful to ever serve food on.

Elsewhere there are displays relating to his many public art commissions, such as his massive 1993 sculpture The Wealth Of Nations, now sited in the Gyle area in the west of the capital.

The best-loved and best-known of these are the extraordinary mosaics which decorate Tottenham Court Road tube station in London. Unveiled in 1986 they cover nearly 1000 square metres of wall on the platforms of the Northern and Central lines.

But when the development of the Elizabeth Line required the moving of one of the main panels, bits which couldn’t be saved were donated to Edinburgh College of Art, where Paolozzi studied briefly in the early 1940s. These fragments also feature in the exhibition. Yet while Scotland is quick to celebrate Paolozzi – there’s even a beer named after him these days – the man himself could have been excused some misgivings about the place he was born.

When Italy joined the war on the side of Germany, the Paolozzis’ sweet shop was trashed by a mob.

Worse was to come when Paolozzi’s father, grandfather and uncle were arrested, sent to Canada to be interned then lost at sea when the ship they were on, the SS Arandora Star, was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland with the loss of over 800 lives. Paolozzi, then aged 16, was himself interned in Edinburgh’s Saughton Prison.

The Herald: Eduardo Paolozzi's workEduardo Paolozzi's work (Image: free)

“He must have had quite a difficult relationship with the place,” Watson admits.

“It was a difficult experience for him. He was 16 when he was imprisoned so it’s going to mark you and he gets out as soon as he can.

“But he always had one eye on Scotland. Particularly as he grew older, that relationship with Scotland and his relationship with the [National] gallery came to the fore again.

“Obviously he spent a lot of time in London, Paris and Munich and places, but he always returned. There was always a connection maintained.”

Scotland’s Pop artist never did forget his roots, it seems.

Paolozzi At 100 opens at the National Galleries of Scotland Modern Two, Edinburgh, on January 27 (until April 21, admission free)