Pop Art was one of the most influential art movements of the 20th century. Pop artists were known for transforming mundane items of everyday life into works of art. The work of artists like Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein – rich in images drawn from pop culture and heavily laden with irony – made a bold statement about the consumerist nature of society.
The seeds of the Pop Art movement were sewn in the UK in the early 1950s by a group of young artists known as the Independent Group. The Independents challenged traditional views about art by incorporating images from film, comic books, and advertisements into their work. They used this new imagery to suggest metaphors about the growing consumerist tendencies of the mid-20th century.
By the mid-1950s, the Pop Art many of us recognize today began to emerge in America. Unlike the unstructured nature of British Pop Art, the American movement was far more unified: artists explored vivid colors, flat designs, and played with bold lines taken from the world of advertising. And when it came to irony, American Pop artists pressed beyond anywhere their British counterparts had gone.
Famous Pop Artists
Jasper Johns is often credited with fathering the American Pop Art movement with his colorful paintings of flags, maps and targets. Andy Warhol was just one of many Pop artists inspired by Johns’ work; the color palette of many of Warhol’s screenprints is obviously derived from Johns’ paintings.
However, while art historians now look back on Johns as someone almost beyond categorization – part Abstract Expressionist, sometimes Neo-Dadist and a Pop progenitor – Warhol is beyond a doubt all Pop. His colorful screenprints, stark-yet-glamorous photography, and tongue-in-cheek performance pieces beautifully captured the prevailing American advertising aesthetic and documented a growing national fascination with celebrity. Warhol’s art is surprisingly un-ironic; he actually sought to take Pop Art beyond an art movement, to a lifestyle. Rather than criticize the influence of commercialism or celebrity, pieces like Campbell’s Soup Cans and Marilyn Diptych (both of 1962) actually embrace it. Admittedly superficial and celebrity-obsessed, Warhol played host to the stars at his New York City studio, The Factory, and his own star rose in turn.
Another well-known Pop master, Roy Lichtenstein was also a screenprinter and a lover of bold color. Yet unlike Warhol, Lichtenstein built his work on the premise of parody. He completed his first true Pop Art piece in 1961 while teaching at Rutgers University: Look Mickey. It was an enormous success, and from then on, he developed and stayed true to a trademark style. The building blocks of comic books – Ben-Day dots, thick outlines and bright, flat color fields – were Lichtenstein’s trusty tools for creating works like his famous Drowning Girl of 1963.
Want to add a splash of Pop to your walls? Check out our gallery dedicated to the Pop Art movement.