Pop art, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, new realism and marilyn monroe and soup

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Paintings between Pop art and Baroque - by Roland Petermann
Pop art like warhol or lichtenstein

Pop art - artists, movement, definition, images

Pop art emerged simultaneously in England and the USA during the 1950s. In the 1960s it became the most popular art movement particularly in paintings and sculptures throughout Europe and the USA.

Pop art (short for "popular art") used common and ordinary popular things of everyday use of which people had a common and widespread cultural knowledge and understanding. Common objects or photographs of these objects were put in an unusual context or were presented in striking colours or combined in chaotic collages. By doing so the artists provoked new ways of seeing, understanding and interpreting these objects and the society and culture that uses and loves them.

The art critic Lawrence Alloway was one of the first to use the term „mass popular art“ in 1958. The movement certainly was a counter-reaction to the highly abstract expressionist art after 1920. Pop art is figurative and its subject is always clear and recognisable. Very often Pop art simply enlarges an object and puts it (often repeatedly) before an empty background or reproduces it in reduced colours or black and white.

To a certain extent Pop art made fun of craftsmanship, exclusivity and artistry and was thus a blow in the face of the established high brow abstract art. However, this does not mean that the message of Pop art was as plain and simple as its forms and techniques. Quite to the contrary. Pop art says «hey, you use Campbell soup tins at home, but what about a hundred of them on a print?»[1] or “didn’t you know that a sexy bodybuilder belongs to an appealing British household nowadays?”[2] It is in this way that we can experience Pop art much more spontaneously and get more involved than we do with abstract art. A work of abstract art says “hey stupid, you don’t know what I'm all about, do you?” To get a clue we have to know the work's title or the artist’s aims and ideas only to ponder whether or not this particular painting or sculpture lives up to our own interpretation or that of the artist respectively. This has much to do with the artist and little with us.

The mass production after WWII was not restricted to food, machinery or clothing but included media like TV, newspapers, prints and photographs. In this respect the artist’s use of photographs, cheap reproduction and printing techniques was part of the message.

Pop art was and still is ambiguous in many ways. In the beginning Pop art was focused more on the endless possibilities of post war culture and society. But very soon the benefits of mass production stood against the loss of individuality of an item and the loss of personal attachment to an object. The excitement of taking part in history through TV, newspapers and the commodities of affordable mass products soon was lessened by the downside of people being manipulated by advertisement, TV-news and mass media. Society and Pop art became even more critical with the riots of the sixties, the Vietnam War, the assassination of J. F. Kennedy or the drug suicides of stars like Marilyn Monroe or Jimmy Hendrix, who soon became icons of Pop art.

Many art critics see Richard Hamilton as the first artist of Pop art. His collage of 1956 “Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?” contains many of the typical ingredients and techniques of Pop art . His work was used as a poster for the 1956 art exhibition “This is Tomorrow” of the “Independent Group” in London. The aim of the exhibition was to show the relation between mass media and contemporary art by featuring new subject matters in unconventional new forms of representation.

Eduardo Paolozzi, Peter Blake, David Hockney (with his famous "A Bigger Splash" of 1967), Allen Jones, Pauline Boty and Ronald Brooks Kitaj became typical representatives of British Pop art in the following years.

In the USA Richard Lindner was an important pioneer of Pop art as well as Jasper Johns with his Flag-Paintings and Robert Rauschenberg with his sculptures. Other well known works of Pop art are the sculptures by Cleas Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, and of course the bathroom sceneries by Tom Wesselmann as well as Robert Indiana’s Love-Sculptures. But the most famous and popular works of Pop art are the prints by the eccentric Andy Warhol (Campbell-Soup series, portrait-series of Marilyn Monroe, Mao, Elvis Presley) and the over-sized comic-book-prints by Roy Lichtenstein. Works of some of these artists were on display in the famous art exhibition “New Painting of Common Objects” in 1962 in the “Pasadena Museum of Art”.

[1] "Campbell Soups" by Andy Warhol, 1962
[2] “Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?” by Richard Hamilton, 1956

To learn more about Pop art see the following related topics

Pop art - defintion and history
About Pop art