While on holiday in Germany this summer, I went to a lovely Pop Art exhibition at the Museum Brandhorst in Munich. I thought the colorful, unusual paintings (including a large collection of Andy Warhol’s works) were intriguing. Young, flashy and sometimes just plain bizarre, they inspired me to kick off my #ArtKnowItAll series with the Pop Art movement.
What is Pop Art?
From the mid 1950s to early 1960s, a new form of art emerged in Britain and America reflecting a post World War II world of manufacturing and industrialization. Bold, brash, fun and outrageous, Pop Art took imagery from popular culture and successfully incorporated it into modern art.
- Inspired by commercial art and the media, Pop Art uses striking colour contrasts to depict identifiable objects and people. The globalisation of pop music and Hollywood at the time created icons such as Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe who were often featured in Pop artist’s work.
- Pop art also reintroduced structure and identifiable images to modern art, which was a huge change from the Abstract Expressionism that had become so popular.
- New mediums and techniques were also introduced; collages, multimedia and machine-produced art became commonplace.
- A new emphasis was placed upon repetition and the mechanization of art, imitating the mass production and consumerist times.
Three Famous Pop Artists
The majority of Pop artists began their careers in commercial art.
Andy Warhol (1928–1987) was a successful commercial illustrator before becoming one of the most famous American artists of his time. Warhol’s art used a variety of media including hand drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, silk screening, sculpture, film, and music. His work was controversial, blurring the lines between fine art and mainstream culture. In 1962, he exhibited the now-iconic paintings of Campbell’s soup cans which brought both himself and Pop Art national recognition for the first time.
James Rosenquist (born 1933), also one of the protagonists in the pop-art movement, started his career as a billboard painter. He later adapted this visual language of advertising to the context of fine art, taking fragmented, unconventional images and juxtaposing them on canvases to create visual stories.
Another leader of pop art, was american artist Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997). However, his main inspiration was the comic strip. His works often featured thick outlines, bold colors and the unique Ben-Day dot technique (small, closely-knit dots of paint applied to form a larger image) which became so popular.
A Cultural Revolution?
Though Pop Art was a prominent movement in the UK and USA, it was undoubtedly a global phenomenon. Activists, thinkers and artists were “rebelling” against the confinement of what they felt to be a conformist society. Art students believed that what they were being taught at school was unrelated to their lives and current affairs.
And so, Pop Art sought to shatter the division between traditional “high” art and popular culture by celebrating everyday life.
I hope you enjoyed the first installment in my #ArtKnowItAll series. As promised, I created some artwork inspired by the Pop art movement which you can see above.
Let me know in the comments below which art movement you want me to write about next month!