Pop art began in the United States in the mid-1950s and was led by the revolutionary modern artists Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist and Roy Lichtenstein. These artists created an international phenomenon with their art as there were no art movements like it at the time. Despite the fact that this pop art spread as far as the United Kingdom.
Although British pop art and Pop art paintings were very different from American pop art. British Pop art artists often used American popular culture to create their work but could only experience it as outsiders looking in.
Pop artists wanted to move away from the themes classically explored by fine art such as morality, classic history, religion and myths. While they could appreciate fine art, they couldn’t find any correlation between it and the lives that they were living. They wanted to close the gap and make art that connected on a personal level with the people of the time.
They were fired up to explore their everyday environment, commonplace objects, people and things excited their imaginations. They dreamed up the idea of elevating and highlighting pop(ular) culture and commercial culture. In the same way that fine art had been elevated with its more traditional themes. They drew their inspiration from movies, advertising, packaging, pop music, comic books and current affairs. The art critic’s reaction against this artistic movement was that work looked like readymades and lacked artistic style. But they had style; Pop style and this spread to Europe thanks to famous artists like Warhol.
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British Pop art artists often used American popular culture to create their work. Photo Source: Unsplash
Andy Warhola (later shortened to Warhol) was born in the United States to a creative mother who encouraged him early in life to pursue his talent. Warhol was a sickly child, during his bed rest for a nervous disorder he would collect pictures from magazines and listen to the radio. Events that he said laid the foundation for his later work.
Warhol’s formal Art education was when he went to college to study pictorial design. He found success as a commercial illustrator after moving to New York, working for publications such as Glamour magazine, Vogue, Harpers Bazaar and the New Yorker. He became more popular after winning awards for unique advertisements on an I. Miller and Sons campaign.
It wasn’t until 1950 that Warhol decided to become a serious artist. He studied and admired other artists who inspired him to experiment and find his own artistic style. He used mixed media; Illustrations, comic strips, advertisements and prints. He was interested in removing evidence of the artist hand in his work and came up with many techniques to avoid brushstrokes. This was to help him express the effect of mass production when the Brushstroke was absent rather than artistic personalisation. Warhol is famous For his paintings, pop style and unique way to share his reaction to the popular culture of the day.
One major technique that he became famous for was silk screen printing. His inspiration was consumer goods and commercial items; he printed shipping labels, matchbooks, coca cola bottles, coffee labels etc. He was also fascinated with Hollywood and movie stars and had a series of images highlighting the stars of the day such as Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.
Warhol also experimented with film, creating 60 films in his lifetime of varying lengths. He printed many art books and created a magazine with a friend called interview magazine which is still in print.
Roy Fox Lichtenstein was born in New York City and grew up with a natural interest in the arts. His art education was spent museums, drawing and taking art classes. He was influenced by Cubist artists like Picasso and Brague and also popular surrealist artists like Paul Klee and Salvador Dali. He also embraced the psychoanalytical subjects of perception, and this became important in the development of his work.
Lichtenstein’s most famous works were inspired by popular culture and follow a reportage style displaying little if any of the artist’s emotion of the subject matter in the works. He was one of the first artists to gain success in the pop art movement. Though critics fiercely accused him of lack of originality and copying.
His method used mixed media; made up of mechanical reproduction and drawing by hand. His work is central to the pop art movement due to his representations of 20th century popular culture.
These artists created an international phenomenon with their art. Photo Source: Unsplash
This is a picture showing Marilyn Monroe’s head printed numerous times on canvas. One half of the image is in a bright colour, and the other is in shades of black and white.
In 1962 Monroe committed suicide, her death had a huge impact on popular culture because she was an icon of the period.
The repetition of Monroe’s head is stacked as if on a shelf at the supermarket, giving the idea that Monroe was a product of the time. On the left, the heads are repeated in colour, and to the right, the heads are stacked in black and white. This gives the idea of fading and is said to represent the idea of the fading celebrity. One of the most famous Pop art portraits.
Pop art was designed by the people for the people, they wanted to make art that people could recognise, understand and relate to on a personal level. They wanted to make art that people could recognise and feel connected to. They took popular culture and found new ways to develop Pop art design and manipulate it until it manifested as pure pop art.
If you found this useful, why not check out our blog on Impressionism. Or learn what the Catholic church had to do with an entire art movement called Baroque. You should also read our blog on the expressionist movement.