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What is Pop Art?

By Jesse J
Updated May 23, 2024
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The term "Pop Art" was coined by English art critic Lawrence Alloway in the late 1950s. He used it to describe what he viewed as a contemporary attitudinal shift in subject matter and techniques of art. Instead of rarefied content such as Bible stories, myths or legends that had traditionally been the subjects of Fine Art, Pop Art featured the increasing spread of corporate marketing through Western culture as inspiration to make commerce the subject of artistic scrutiny. In Pop Art, this type of subject matter was considered every bit as artistically worthy as the traditional subject matter of Fine Art.

The Pop Art Movement

Beginning in England in the mid-1950s and the United States in the early 1960s, Pop Art focused on everyday objects rendered through an adoption of commercial art techniques. In so doing, artists availed themselves of images and ideas culled from popular culture — such as movies, comic books, advertising and especially television — and faithfully reproduced in all their mass-produced glory. By making use of what had been dismissed as kitsch by the art establishment, Pop artists whose works were displayed in museums effectively thumbed their collective noses at the distinctions between highbrow art and lowbrow art.

Artists and Examples

Although Andy Warhol was not the first artist to mine advertising for art, he has remained the best-known practitioner of Pop Art. In paintings such as 200 Campbell's Soup Cans (1962) and Marilyn Monroe Diptych (1962), Warhol tried to elevate mechanical reproduction to Fine Art status, enraging some critics even as buyers eagerly bought up his work. Similarly, Roy Lichtenstein turned to the comic strips of his youth to inspire his garishly bright art that depicted sensational action or drama formed by the same kind of enlarged printer's dots that were used on cheap newsprint, and he reaped great success in the process.

Other artists, such as Robert Rauschenberg and Richard Hamilton, formed collages out of pre-existing print images that took on added subtexts of ironic or sardonic meaning when assembled together. Muralist James Rosenquist created billboard-sized works that were crammed with consumer goods as a comment on media overload, and sculptor Claes Oldenburg sought to deprive everyday objects of their function, crafting soft vinyl toilets and humongous hot water bottles that would have no practical use.

Assimilation

Designed for the masses, Pop Art saw its design aesthetic dissolve after the late 1960s. It was at once eclipsed by Abstract Expressionism and assimilated by the same corporate marketing sources that it had used for creative fuel. Pop Art has remained popular with collectors, especially as a symbol of the culture of the 1960s.

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Discussion Comments
By anon963719 — On Jul 30, 2014

Pop art is awesome! There's a music video with some cool Pop art in it - great song too! "She Likes Pop Art" by Whistlejacket.

By anon346573 — On Aug 29, 2013

I like it - it's cheeky and fun and I enjoy trying to make similar pieces myself. And I agree, it has massively influenced much of the art around us - even down to product design - which is where it started!

By anon331496 — On Apr 23, 2013

Pop art was real art and it inspired lots of people, including me to make the same art.

By anon330042 — On Apr 13, 2013

I have a book I am working on that includes research into Pop Art and my sister Nancy's love for the work. She was a pop artist during part of her art life career. I am making pieces of digital art that represents her own work in the styles of teachers she adored.

By anon257874 — On Mar 29, 2012

My name is tingyechy and I love pop art. I think it could be used as a form of communication for the shy to tell the world how they feel.

By anon245830 — On Feb 07, 2012

Pop art is cool. I like Romero Britto's style!

By anon244875 — On Feb 03, 2012

Pop art is weird. I think it should be left for the comic books.

By anon161051 — On Mar 18, 2011

Pop Art is interesting and its cool especially when they use celebrities in it and use commercial art techniques.

By anon157561 — On Mar 03, 2011

pop art is cool. we're leaning about it in class. it's adverts that are art and are against the boring stuff art that's the norm!

By anon154083 — On Feb 19, 2011

I like pop art. we are doing it at school for art. I find it really interesting, some of its kind of boring but most of it is really good. I love the ones that really pop out!

By anon143644 — On Jan 17, 2011

Pop art was inspirational. I'm writing my dissertation on how pop art was affected by consumerism, and for all of those struggling with their homework i really don't see how you can be! It's so easy!

Post war = More money.

More money = New inventions (Vacuum cleaner).

New inventions = More advertising.

Pop art is commenting on these three points. Because there was more money in society, consumerism really took off. They commented on people's buying habits with art. Simple.

By anon141378 — On Jan 10, 2011

I don't know what pop art actually is but i love it. could someone tell me please?

By anon139733 — On Jan 05, 2011

I love pop art. It's so cool, but i have homework on it and i don't know what it means and i can't find any information about it!

By anon122241 — On Oct 27, 2010

pop art is amazing. we have been spending months on it in our art studies but it is annoying when you get homework on it and you can't find the facts.

By anon109691 — On Sep 08, 2010

pop art is great and it's an exciting way to do art, but is crap when you have homework on it.

By anon89879 — On Jun 13, 2010

i love pop art! it is so cool!

By anon88973 — On Jun 08, 2010

I agree with anon 76443 and top of that, we need to think out of the box and come up with a solution. we can change the world through art work and please if you don't know art, live it.

By anon86500 — On May 25, 2010

i don't understand what it means but i love pop art.

By anon85147 — On May 19, 2010

Pop art is cool to look at.

By anon83738 — On May 12, 2010

'Pop Art' was - and continues to be - used as an umbrella term, universally applied to a large variety of different visual and conceptual concerns...

What does this mean?

By anon83620 — On May 11, 2010

pop art is so cool. One of my favorite types of art.

By anon83080 — On May 09, 2010

Frankly pop art is strange! I just don't see the point, having said that sometimes it can look cool. But I'm really not convinced!

By anon82729 — On May 07, 2010

what was pop art used for? please let me know asap as it is for homework

By anon82137 — On May 04, 2010

pop art is not rubbish.

By anon82136 — On May 04, 2010

pop art is cool.

By anon81894 — On May 03, 2010

The purpose of art is to create an emotion, comment or a thought from the viewer. Even comments such as "pop art is rubbish" is still a comment and people are talking about it and voicing their opinions. The artist has therefore aroused emotions.

By anon81711 — On May 03, 2010

Pop art is wonderful if you are not good at art. it's something that's easy, but really hard if you have to do homework on that subject.

By anon80610 — On Apr 28, 2010

i agree with anon75720.

By anon80565 — On Apr 27, 2010

pop art is crap and stupid.

By anon80159 — On Apr 26, 2010

pop art is all right.

By anon80149 — On Apr 26, 2010

pop art is cool because things that look boring, pop art makes it look cool. i agree with anon 66267. It's so cool.

By anon79074 — On Apr 21, 2010

I love pop art but the thing that annoys me is that you can't find facts about it, especially for projects so you end up getting a bad mark!

By anon78714 — On Apr 19, 2010

i think that pop art is a load of great art. it is full of passion.

By anon77342 — On Apr 14, 2010

@ anon66267: it's people's different views on arts which make it special to some people but boring to others. it's opinion without feeling the emotion or influence of the art you find it boring. It's all about imagination and emotions giving through the art of using imagery to explain words.

By anon76443 — On Apr 10, 2010

i love pop art, but there isn't very much information on it when you need to write an assignment on it for your art class.

By anon75720 — On Apr 07, 2010

pop art is stupid when you have to write an assignment on it.

By anon71446 — On Mar 18, 2010

Pop art is crap.

By anon71028 — On Mar 17, 2010

pop art is wonderful.

By anon70481 — On Mar 14, 2010

pop art is boring art.

By anon66267 — On Feb 18, 2010

Pop art is not at all rubbish. it has transformed how people today look at art. Companies all over the world use pop art to advertise their products. People all over have pop art in their homes. It is a way to express yourself. No style of art should ever be called rubbish. it is a way people show who they are. Some people may only be able to use art as a way to present their ideas and feelings.

If it wasn't for everyone's different influences on art, we might not have what we see today. So please think next time before you call art rubbish.

By anon60854 — On Jan 16, 2010

what are you talking about anon45769? pop art is an awesome creative way to show everyday items in art.

By anon51921 — On Nov 10, 2009

Pop Art is freaking awesome.

By anon46214 — On Sep 23, 2009

Pop art is cool,awesome,and wonderful

By anon45769 — On Sep 20, 2009

pop art is rubbish.

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