What Is the Pop Art Movement? Definition & Characteristics

Posted by Robert Lange on

What is pop art? It’s an art movement that emerged in the mid of the 20th century in both Great Britain and the United States. It draws inspiration from popular and commercial culture and was a form of rebellion against traditional art, which for many seemed irrelevant in the new post-industrial age. In this article, we shall explore pop art further, explaining when it all started, who invented it, and showing you examples of Pop Art pieces. We invite you to join us on this artistic journey.

What Is Pop Art?

Pop art is a movement in art that focuses on creating paintings and sculptures of mass culture objects. Its aim is to blur the boundaries between “high” and “low” culture. It draws inspiration from advertising, cartoons, and popular symbols. Unlike expressionism, for example, pop art pieces are usually much less emotional, though they might be used to create the effect of “shock.”

When did Pop Art start? In the mid-1950s. What’s interesting here is that it was at the same time that it emerged both in Great Britain and the United States.

Who invented Pop Art? This depends on what country you look at. In the United Kingdom, the early artists included Eduardo Paolozzi and Richard Hamilton, while in the United States, the first members of this movement were Larry Rivers, Ray Johnson, and Jasper Johns.

American vs. British Pop Art

The particular aims and roots of pop art also differ depending on the country. In the US, it was indeed a response by the artists themselves, who were disillusioned with other art movements that failed to be relevant in the post-war world. In the UK, on the other hand, it was a satirical approach to the US commercialization and pop culture, which was then perceived as a powerful, manipulative propaganda tool.

As a result, the pieces themselves were slightly different. US pop art was more focused on running away from personal symbolism and emotions. In early UK pop art, it was quite visible that the imagery was viewed from a distance, and the works themselves were focused on the symbolism, what this imagery truly represented.

Who Represented Pop Art – The Most Well-Known Artists and Examples of Their Works

What are the most famous Pop Art artists whose works you should definitely check out?

  • Richard Hamilton – Called the father of the pop art movement, Richard Hamilton was one of the first artists who invented this movement, with some people even claiming that it was he who invented the term pop art. One of the most famous examples of his works is Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?, a collage presenting a living space within an apartment filled with items of desire, like a TV, a vacuum cleaner, muscles, etc.

what is pop art

  • Andy Warhol – A superstar in the Pop Art movement, examples of his pieces include the famous Campbell’s Soup Cans and Gold Marilyn Monroe, both of which have gained worldwide popularity and are still present in the modern pop-culture world nowadays.

when did pop art start

  • Keith Haring – Although starting with street art, he has also found inspiration in popular culture, namely cartoons. His most famous work, though, is the mural he created on the Berlin Wall itself.
  • Roy Lichtenstein – Yet another pioneer in the pop art movement, Roy Lichtenstein’s works have a unique style, and his inspirations clearly come from comics and adverts. It is, thus, no surprise that his works attract art collectors and sell for high prices, such as Nurse which fetched a stunning $95m in 2015.

who invented pop art

Pop Art – A Manifestation of Postmodernism

Pop art has carved its way into our culture, yet it’s not the only influence that it had on art. As a new, fresh approach, this movement opened doors for more down-to-earth imagery, tested the waters, and showed that the general public is, indeed, interested in art that is more relevant in the post-industrial age. Therefore, pop art is often called the first manifestation of postmodernism.

The Takeaway

Let’s sum this article up. Pop art is an artistic movement that has its roots in the mid 1950s. It emerged at more-or-less the same time both in the UK and the US, though the styles and approaches were different in these two countries. This movement is focused on topics relevant to the audience, ones that have their roots in commerce, advertising, and comics. The most famous example of a pop art maestro is Andy Warhol, though there were many other great artists (and often still are) over the years. After all, the greatest pop art masterpieces are still an inspiration nowadays, so it’s no surprise that there are still painters and sculptures pursuing this movement.

Did you like this article? You may also read: A Brief History of Modern and Contemporary Art

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