What is Pop Art?The Pop Art movement started in the mid 50’s in England and shortly
afterwards it spread to America. As the name suggests, Pop Art works include elements
of popular culture including magazines, comics, and especially, advertising material.
These everyday objects that you might find in any home, were picked out and made
the focus of works of art.
Pop Art artists were reacting against the abstract expressionist movement which was
dominant in the art world at the time. They complained that traditional art subjects
were too elitist and that mass culture was as much a valid subject for an artist
as the lofty classical themes seen in fine art.
In 1952 The Independent Group in was founded in London by Eduardo Paolozzi it consisted
of artists sculptors writers and architects and at the inaugural meeting he presented
a slide show of images he found interesting. This collection he called, ‘Bunk’, the
large part of which featured American Mass produced advertising as well as comic
books and other ‘pop’ imagery. His work, ‘I was a Rich Man’s Plaything’ (left) was
shown in 1952 even though he had created it in 1947. It was the first known work
of the Pop Art movement to feature the word, ‘Pop’. It inspired the group as a whole
and subsequent work by Pop Art artists featured much American imagery in their work.
Pop art canvases came to symbolise the American Dream.
Eduardo Paolozzi was a Scottish artist, the son of Italian immigrants he died in
2005. Much of his art work is featured in mosaic tiles on the London Underground.
Above, ‘Three Flags’ by Jasper Johns 1958
In America the movement started slowly and did not really take hold until the 60’s.
In it’s early days though, the rampant consumerism of 1950’s in America provided
the perfect atmosphere to influence aspiring pop art artists.
Unlike previous 20th Century art-isms such as cubism and surrealism, Pop Art didn’t
need explaining to the masses. In the consumer society the imagery was already all
around them in the form of advertising, brand names and celebrities. The bold colours
and shapes were uncomplicated and easy on the eye. Some art critics disliked the
link to commercialism and continued to ask,”what is pop art ?”, but the movement
Pop Art artists proved that almost anything could be elevated to the status of art,
indeed Andy Warhol’s quote ‘”Art is anything you can get away with” perhaps sums
up the Zeitgeist. Nevertheless Pop Art is credited with bringing ‘serious’ art to
the masses and gave us all a new way of looking at the question of ‘what is art?’
Andy Warhol was perhaps the most famous Pop Art artist and his body of work features
many of the most well known images that we know today. It is perhaps ironic that
his work is so well known that it itself has become part of mass culture and is now
one of the everyday objects often featured in other artist’s work 5 decades later.
A creative genius he made films and produced bands including the Velvet Underground
and in 1968 coined the phrase, “In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15
Warhol made the Campbell’s Soup can a legitimate subject for art and used the humble
tin over and over again in his work. He produced not just one picture but he used
the image singly, in multiples, with the label on and coming off. He made the ordinary
His most famous work was the colourful multiple screen prints he made of screen icon
Marilyn Monroe This also had a side effect of preserving Marilyn forever in an image
that is both timeless and gorgeous. The highest price ever paid for a Warhol work
is 100 million dollars in 2009.
Roy Lichtenstein was another famous American Pop Art artist. After dabbling with
Abstract Expressionism in his early career he suddenly produced canvasses featuring
comic strip cartoons. These were groundbreaking at the time and took the art world
by storm. They were colourful and included text, allowing him to express humour and
irony directly to the viewer. Based on real comic strips, many questioned their originality
as well as their right to be classified as art. However they were popular in exhibitions
and equally successful in terms of sales. The first exhibition of his new pop art
was in 1962, all his work sold out to influential collectors before the exhibition
was even open to the public.
Pop Art artists have provided us with some of the best selling prints and posters
and pop art canvases grace living rooms, bedrooms and offices the world over. We
hope you’ve enjoyed our facts about pop art and that we’ve inspired you to own some
Pop Art art for yourself.
POP ART Started in London, England with the Independent Group in 1952
‘I Was a Rich Man’s Plaything’ by Eduardo Paollozzi’s was the first pop artwork
to feature the word ‘pop’ and was created in the UK in 1952
American Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art featured things not previously thought of as
art, such as Cartoon Strips and Speech Bubbles, these were elevated to ‘art’ status
Humour and Irony were part of the mix
Pop Art artists thought ‘Everyday Objects’ found in homes were equally valid subjects
for art whereas traditional art concentrated on religious imagery, landscapes, still
life and portraits
Most famous pop art artists were Americans Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and
Campbell’s Soup, Coca Cola and other brand names were suddenly appearing in Pop Art
Pop Art artists were often inspired by Advertising Imagery from magazines and billboards
Andy Warhol declared, “Art is anything you can get away with”