It’s hard to pin down exactly when Pop Art had its true beginnings, but it’s generally credited as emerging in the mid-1950’s in the UK and then in the US by the end of the decade. Pop Art uses the aesthetics of popular culture in the works; everything from comic books and advertising through to Hollywood films.
It’s a genre most of us will be familiar with; we all recognise the iconic Warhol Campbell’s Soup or the colourful Ben-Day dot work of Lichtenstein. Pop Art’s biggest stars are household names. Beyond these most well known aspects, here are some of the most interesting facts about the movement, which is still going strong, that just you might not know about:
1.) One of the prevailing themes of Pop Art was mass production and how that increased the disposability of everyday objects, including artwork. Andy Warhol famously said that everyone should be a machine and thought of himself as one, which is why he strived to make all his work look like it was machine made and mass produced.
2.) It was originally called Propaganda Art when it emerged in London and adopted the moniker Pop Art later when it also surfaced across the pond in America, becoming more popular.
3.) Famous Lichtenstein work, ‘Ohhh… Alright…’ (1964) took its inspiration from a panel in the DC Comics’ Secret Hearts #88, June 1963, which was a well-known and long running romance comic of the time.
4.) Pop artists would often enlarge the objects in their work to comic proportions as a form of cultural commentary and satire. The most common themes included household objects and food.
5.) Scottish artist and sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi’s ‘I Was A Rich Man’s Plaything’ (1952) is widely considered to be the first work of Pop Art. In the same year, Paolozzi formed the Independent Group – which was the pre-cursor to the Pop Art movement – in London.
6.) Pop Art paintings are continually among the most expensive ever bought and sold. In 2010, ‘Flag’ (1954-55) a painting of the American flag by Jasper Johns was bought at a Sotheby’s auction for $36 million beating the previous record for a Johns piece by nearly $10 million.
7.) Pop Art and pop music found that they had much in common during the 1950’s and 60’s, and both influenced the other. The pop artist Peter Blake even created record cover designs for Elvis Presley and The Beatles.
Even now, decades after it first exploded onto the scene, Pop Art remains as popular as it ever was. Many of the main themes and distinguishing features from the movement can still be found in the work of artists today. As a genre, Pop Art is ever changing, always adapting to the zeitgeist and the culture of the time. It is, political and apolitical, confrontational and neutral – making statements about war, protests, the threat of nuclear bombs and attacks, which are fears just as real today as they were in the 1950’s