Pop Art | 1950 – 1970

The art movement Pop Art emerged in Britain and the United States during the mid- to late-1950s. The movement presented a challenge to traditions of fine art by including imagery from advertising, comic books and mundane cultural objects. One of its aims is to use images of popular culture in art, emphasizing the banal elements of any culture,

most often through the use of irony. It is also associated with the artists’ use of mechanical means of reproduction or rendering techniques. In pop art, material is sometimes visually removed from its known context, isolated, or combined with unrelated material.

Andy Warhol was the most successful and highly paid commercial illustrator in New York even before he began to make art destined for galleries. His screenprinted images of Marilyn Monroe, soup cans, and sensational newspaper stories, quickly became synonymous with Pop art. He emerged from the poverty and obscurity of an Eastern European immigrant family in Pittsburgh, to become a charismatic magnet for bohemian New York.

For many his ascent echoes one of Pop art’s ambitions, which is to bring popular styles and subjects into the exclusive salons of high art. His crowning achievement was the elevation of his own persona to the level of a popular icon, representing a new kind of fame and celebrity for a fine artist.

Roy Lichtenstein was one of the first American Pop artists to achieve widespread renown, and he became a lightning rod for criticism of the movement. His early work ranged widely in style and subject matter, and displayed considerable understanding of modernist painting: Lichtenstein would often maintain that he was as interested in the abstract qualities of his images as he was in their subject matter. However, the mature Pop style he arrived at in 1961, which was inspired by comic strips, was greeted by accusations of banality, lack of originality, and, later, even copying.

His high-impact, iconic images have since become synonymous with Pop art, and his method of creating images, which blended aspects of mechanical reproduction and drawing by hand, has become central to critics’ understanding of the significance of the movement.