Pop Art
The Art History Archive - Movements

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Art based on Popular Culture

By Charles Moffat - November 2007.

Pop Art was a visual art movement that emerged in the 1950s in Britain and the United States. The origin of the term Pop Art is unknown but is often credited to British art critic Lawrence Alloway in an essay titled "The Arts and the Mass Media", although he uses the words "popular mass culture" instead of "pop art". Alloway was one of the leading critics to defend Pop Art as a legitimate art form.

It was one of the biggest art movements of the twentieth century and is characterized by themes and techniques drawn from popular mass culture, such as television, movies, advertising and comic books. Pop art is widely interpreted as either a reversal or reaction to Abstract Expressionism or an expansion upon it.

Pop Art aimed to employ images of popular culture as opposed to elitist culture in art, often emphasizing kitsch and thus targeted a broad audience. It was easy to understand, easy to recognize because it was iconic and accessible to the mass public. Pop art is sometimes considered to be very academic and unconventional, but it was always easy to interpret.

Pop Art and Minimalism (which is difficult to interpret in comparison) are considered to be the last modern art movements and are on the cusp of postmodern art.

The movement was marked by clear lines, sharp paintwork and clear representations of symbols, objects and people commonly found in popular culture. It allowed for large scale artworks like Abstract Expressionism, but drew upon more DADAist elements. DADAism explored some of the same topics, but pop art replaced the destructive, satirical, and anarchic elements of the Dada movement with a reverence for mass culture and consumerism.

Pop artists also liked to satirize objects, sometimes enlarging those objects to gigantic porportions (see the giant spoon and cherry at the bottom of this page). Food was a common theme, but so were household objects such as chairs and toilets being made of squishy plastic instead of the materials you would normally expect. See Claes Oldenburg's "Soft Toilet".

The 1950s were a period of optimism and a consumer boom as more and more products were mass marketed and advertised. Influenced by American artists such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, British artists such as Richard Hamilton and the Independent Group aimed at creating art that drew upon symbols and images found in the media. Hamilton helped organize the 'Man, Machine, and Motion' exhibition in 1955, and 'This is Tomorrow' with its landmark image "Just What is it that makes today's home so different, so appealing?" in 1956 is considered by some historians to be the first example of Pop Art.

Pop Art coincided with the youth and pop music phenomenon of the 1950s and 1960s, frequently appearing in advertisements for musical bands and on record covers, becoming very fashionable. Afterwards Pop Art came in a number of waves, but all its adherents shared some interest in the urban, consumer, modern experience.

See also: Neo-Pop Art

Important Pop Artists and their Influences

  • David Hockney
  • Jasper Johns
  • Roy Lichtenstein
  • Claes Oldenburg
  • Robert Rauschenberg
  • Andy Warhol
  • Tom Wesselmann

    Important Works

  • Jasper Johns - Flag - 1954-55

  • Jasper Johns - Flag, Target with Four Faces (Plaster Casts) - 1955

  • Robert Rauschenberg - Bed - 1955

  • Richard Hamilton - Just What Is It that Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing? - 1956

    Lesser Known Pop Artists:

  • Billy Apple
  • Sir Peter Blake
  • Derek Boshier
  • Patrick Caulfield
  • Alan D’Arcangelo
  • Jim Dine
  • Erró
  • William Eggleston
  • Marisol Escobar
  • Alfred Gockel
  • Red Grooms
  • Richard Hamilton
  • Robert Indiana
  • Allen Jones
  • Alex Katz
  • Corita Kent
  • Yayoi Kusama
  • Richard Lindner
  • Peter Max
  • John McHale
  • Takashi Murakami
  • Julian Opie
  • Eduardo Paolozzi
  • Peter Phillips
  • Sigmar Polke
  • Pietro Psaier
  • Hariton Pushwagner
  • George Segal
  • Mel Ramos
  • Larry Rivers
  • James Rizzi
  • James Rosenquist
  • Ed Ruscha
  • Aya Takano
  • Wayne Thiebaud
  • John Wesley

    Neo-Pop Artists

  • Ashley Bickerton
  • Rah Crawford
  • Daniel Edwards
  • Katharina Fritsch
  • Keith Haring
  • Damien Hirst
  • Gary Hume
  • Jeff Koons
  • Mark Kostabi
  • Yngvar Larsen
  • Allan McCollum
  • Komar and Melamid
  • Cady Noland
  • Charles Ray
  • Kenny Scharf
  • Haim Steinbach
  • Gavin Turk
  • Robert Rauschenberg - Monogram - 1959

  • Jasper Johns - Painter Bronze - 1960

  • Andy Warhol - Installation of Campbell's Soup Cans - 1962

  • Andy Warhol - 210 Coca-Cola Bottles - 1962

  • Andy Warhol - Marilyn Monroe - 1962

  • Andy Warhol - Marilyn Monroe's Lips - 1962

  • Claes Oldenburg - Floor Cake - 1962

  • Andy Warhol - Orange Disaster/Car - 1963

  • Andy Warhol - Orange Disaster/Electric Chair - 1963

  • Andy Warhol - Triple Elvis - 1963

  • Roy Lichtenstein - Drowning Girl - 1963

  • Roy Lichtenstein - Whaam! - 1963

  • Robert Rauschenberg - Estate - 1963

  • Jasper Johns - Field Painting - 1963-64

  • Robert Rauschenberg - Choke - 1964

  • Tom Wesselmann - Great American Nude #57 - 1964

  • George Segal - The Diner - 1964-66

  • Andy Warhol - Electric Chair - 1965

  • Roy Lichtenstein - Big Painting No. 6 - 1965

  • Claes Oldenburg - Soft Toilet - 1966

  • David Hockney - A Bigger Splash - 1967

  • Claes Oldenburg - Geometric Mouse, Scale A - 1969

  • Alice Neel - Andy Warhol - 1970

  • Jasper Johns - Souvenir - 1970

  • Roy Lichtenstein - Artist's Studio - 1974

  • Claes Oldenburg/C.V.Bruggen - Batcolumn - 1977

  • Claes Oldenburg/C.V.Bruggen - Spoonbridge and Cherry - 1985-88

  • Andy Warhol - Camouflage Self-Portrait - 1986

  • Andy Warhol - John Wayne Silkscreen - 1986

  • Roy Lichtenstein - Bedroom at Arles - 1992

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