Pop-Art Movement
History, Characteristics of Popular-Culture Arts Style.

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For a list of the Top 10 painters/
sculptors: Best Artists of All Time.
For the Top 100 works of sculpture
see: Greatest Sculptures Ever.

Pop Art (c.1955-70)


What is Pop-Art?
Leading Pop Artists
Origins and Influences
The Aims, Philosophy and Methods of Pop Art
Critics Versus the Public and Collectors
Famous American Pop-Artists
Famous British Pop-Artists
List of Pop-Art Works
Famous Neo-Pop Artists
List of Neo-Pop Art Works

Pop Art Examples

Apple Core (1992)
Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
By Claes Oldenburg.

Whaam! (1963) Roy Lichtenstein.
Tate Collection, London. One of the
greatest 20th century paintings of
the Pop-art idiom.

Campbells Soup (1968). Warhol

A Bigger Splash (1967), David Hockney.

For details of art movements
and styles, see: History of Art.

For a quick reference guide,
see: 20th Century Painters.

What is Pop-Art? - Characteristics

The term Pop-Art was invented by British curator Lawrence Alloway in 1955, to describe a new form of "Popular" art - a movement characterized by the imagery of consumerism and popular culture. Pop-Art emerged in both New York and London during the mid-1950s and became the dominant avant-garde style until the late 1960s. Characterized by bold, simple, everyday imagery, and vibrant block colours, it was interesting to look at and had a modern "hip" feel. The bright colour schemes also enabled this form of avant-garde art to emphasise certain elements in contemporary culture, and helped to narrow the divide between the commercial arts and the fine arts. It was the first Post-Modernist movement (where medium is as important as the message) as well as the first school of art to reflect the power of film and television, from which many of its most famous images acquired their celebrity. Common sources of Pop iconography were advertisements, consumer product packaging, photos of film-stars, pop-stars and other celebrities, and comic strips.

For details of the best
modern painters, see:
Famous Painters.

For the chronology and dates
of key events in the evolution
of visual arts around the world
see: History of Art Timeline.

For a discussion,
see: Definition of Art.

Leading Pop Artists

In American art, famous exponents of Pop included Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008), Jasper Johns (b.1930), Roy Lichtenstein (1923-97) and Andy Warhol (1928-87). Other American exponents included: Jim Dine (b.1935), Robert Indiana (aka John Clark) (b.1928), Ray Johnson (1927-95), Alex Katz (b.1927), Claes Oldenburg (b.1929), Ed Ruscha (b.1937), James Rosenquist (b.1933), and Tom Wesselmann (b.1931). For more, please see Andy Warhol's Pop Art of the sixties and seventies.

Leading British Pop artists included: Sir Peter Blake (b.1932), Patrick Caulfield (1936-2006), Richard Hamilton (b.1922), David Hockney (b.1937), and Allen Jones (b.1937).


Origins and Influences

Pop-art, like nearly all significant art styles, was in part a reaction against the status quo. In 1950s America, the main style was Abstract Expressionism, an arcane non-figurative style of painting that - while admired by critics, serious art-lovers, and experienced museum-visitors - was not "connecting" with either the general public, or with many artists. Very much a painterly style, the more abstract and expressive it became, the bigger the opportunity for a new style which employed more figurative, more down-to-earth imagery: viz, something that the wider artist fraternity could get its teeth into and that viewers could relate to. Thus Pop-art, which duly became the established art style, and which in turn was superceded by other schools after 1970.


In some ways, the emergence of Pop-art (and its ascendancy over Abstract Expressionism) was similar to the rise of Dada and its broader based successor Surrealism (and their ascendancy over Cubism). Both the superceded schools (Abstract Expressionism and Cubism) involved highly intellectual styles with limited appeal to mainstream art lovers. True, Dada was essentially anti-art, but the years during which it flourished 1916-1922 were marked by great polarization and political strife, and as soon as things calmed down most Dadaists became Surrealists. In any event, as explained below under Aims and Philosophy, Pop-art shares many of the characteristics of Dada-Surrealism and is indebted to it for several techniques derived from Kurt Schwitters' collages, the "readymades" of Marcel Duchamp, the iconic imagery of Rene Magritte and the brash creations of Salvador Dali (eg. Mae West Lips Sofa; Lobster Telephone).

And if Surrealism was essentially internalist, and escapist in nature, while Pop-art was defined by external consumerist forces, both were consumed by the need to make a strong visual impact on the general public.

Another artist who may have had an impact on Pop-art, is Edward Hopper (1882-1967) the realist painter of urban America. Although his painterly style is very different from most pop works, his simple images of ultra-American everyday scenes (eg. "Night Hawks", 1942 and "Gas", 1940) were well known to the pop generation, and may have informed their paintings.

NOTE: For other important 20th century trends similar to Pop art, see Art Movements, Schools (from about 100 BCE).


British Pop-Art emerged from within the Independent Group - an informal circle of artists including painter Richard Hamilton, curator and art critic Lawrence Alloway, and sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi, that met in the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.

From the first meeting, in 1952, when Paolozzi presented a number of collages assembled from magazine clippings and other "found objects", including his (now) celebrated collage entitled "I was a Rich Man's Plaything" (created 5 years previously in 1947) their discussions centred largely around the artistic value and relevance of popular mass culture.

Four years later, in 1956, another member of the group, Richard Hamilton, produced his own collage, "Just what is it that makes today's homes so appealing?" - which, along with Paolozzi's 1947 collage, is regarded as one of the earliest examples of British Pop-Art. In 1961, a number of Pop-style works by Derek Boshier, David Hockney, Allen Jones, RB Kitaj and Peter Phillips, featured in the Young Contemporaries Exhibition. In 1962, further publicity was given to British Pop when the BBC screened "Pop Goes the Easel", a film by Ken Russell which explored the new movement in Britain.



Meanwhile in America, during the mid-1950s, the art world was being rocked by a number of artists attached to small movements (eg. Neo-Dada, Funk Art, Lettrism, Beat Art, Polymaterialism, Common-Object, to name but a few), many of whom were incorporating articles of mass culture in their works. They wanted their art to be much more inclusive than traditional styles (like Abstract Expressionism), so they used non-art materials and focused on ordinary, easily recognizable subjects that expressed the popular culture of the day.

Among this upsurge of innovation, work by Robert Rauschenberg, Ray Johnson (1927-95) and Jasper Johns, was beginning to make an impact on the important New York art scene. Between them, they opened up a whole range of new subject matter: Johns, with his paintings of flags, targets and numbers, as well as his sculptures of objects like beer cans; Rauschenberg, with his collage and assemblage art, and "combine paintings" (in which a painted canvas is combined with various objects or photographic images - such as: "Monogram" [1955-9] comprising a stuffed goat with a tyre around its middle) of stuffed animals, Coca-Cola bottles, and other items; Johnson with his celebrity collages of James Dean, Shirley Temple and Elvis. Other influential pioneers and advocates of Pop-art were the composer John Cage (an influential teacher at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina), and the Performance artist Allan Kaprow (1927-2006).

This rising tide of new thinking was further enhanced by renewed interest in earlier avant-garde movements like Dada and Surrealism, whose enduring vitality was reinforced by the influence, if not the actual presence, of several ex-Dadaists and Surrealists, like Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, and local converts, such as Joseph Cornell. That said, it is important to state that while American avant-garde artists of this period (especially Rauschenberg) were indebted to earlier Europeans (like Duchamp, Schwitters et al) for establishing certain traditions (like collage), their unique focus was on producing art which reflected the reality of contemporary America.

By the early 1960s, a cohort of Pop-style artists began to gain fame through solo exhibitions in places like New York and Los Angeles, several of whom used commercial printmaking techniques (eg. screen-printing) to create their art, rather than traditional painterly methods. These new talents included: Jim Dine, Robert Indiana, Alex Katz, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist, Tom Wesselmann, and Andy Warhol. Several works, later to become icons, were shown for the first time. They included Lichtenstein's comic strip oils, Warhol's silkscreen prints of Marilyn Monroe and Campbell's soup cans, and Oldenburg's monumental vinyl burgers and ice-creams.

Strangely, until late 1962 or early 1963, these artists were still labelled by critics as New Realists or some other such term. Thus the two important art shows held in the autumn of 1962 - one curated by Walter Hopps at the Pasadena Art Museum, the other at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York - were entitled "The New Painting of Common Objects" (Pasadena) and "New Realism" (New York). Only hereafter was the term Pop-art used as a technical name for the movement, partly due to the critics discomfort with the term Realist, and partly due to the presence in New York of Lawrence Alloway - now a curator at the Guggenheim Museum - who advocated the adoption of the term.

From 1963 onwards, Pop-art spread throughout America and, helped by British Pop-artists, established itself on the Continent. The movement's rise was aided by parallel growth in other areas. In economics, via the growth of the world economy in general and the American economy in particular; in science, via the spread of television; in contemporary music, (which itself became known as "Pop") through the miniaturization of radio, increased record production, the appearance of cult groups like The Beatles, and the phenomenon of pychedelia; and lastly through an expanding art market.

During the later 1960s, Andy Warhol emerged as the Damien Hirst of his day, gaining fame and notoriety in equal amounts for his iconic celebrity screenprints, his conceptualist film work, his increasingly sleek art production methods and his self promotion - at least until he was shot and seriously wounded on June 3, 1968. Roy Lichtenstein, too, became a household name through his comic-strip blow-ups and several prestigious retrospectives on both sides of the Atlantic. Meantime, Rauschenberg won the Grand Prize at the 1964 Venice Biennale, and maintained his avant-garde reputation by helping to form EAT (Experiments in Art and Technology) in 1966 to boost collaboration between artists and engineers, while Johns maintained his high standing by winning first prize at the 1967 Sao Paulo Biennale.

Perhaps inevitably, having weathered the conformity of the 1950s, and the panic of the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), American Pop-art reached its peak during the second half of the 1960s, only to find itself infected and undermined by the angst of the Vietnam War era, and the corresponding rise of anti-Americanism.


Despite being less brash, less kitschy, more romantic and more nostalgic than its counterpart across the Atlantic, British Pop-art during the early and mid-1960s was strongly influenced by a US pop culture which it regarded as being more up-to-date and more exciting than the home-grown variety. It was during this period that Britain began importing a substantial amount of American television programs, as well as other features of American life, such as burger bars and other fast food outlets. As a result, artists began to draw on American imagery for inspiration, although often with a very British slant. On the other hand, the British advertising and printing industry was far less developed, which restrained British artists from using techniques already well established in New York (eg. silkscreen printing), and forced them to rely on older techniques.


In Europe, the primacy of American popular culture was diluted by both language and politics. In Paris, still anxious about its junior status to New York as the world's top art centre, American pop culture was tolerated rather than celebrated. Moreover, the French avant-garde - perhaps due to its entrenched Communist Party - had a more political flavour and thus took a more Dadaist line encouraging audience participation in their preferred Performance, Happenings and Conceptual art under the umbrella term of Nouveau Realisme (c.1960-70). The leading French "Pop-artists" or Nouveau Realistes were: Yves Klein (1928-62), Francois Dufrene (1930-82), Matial Raysse (b.1936), Jacques de la Villegle (b.1926), Jacques Monory (b.1934), Alain Jacquet (b.1939), Jean Tinguely (1925-91). Italy, being less political (despite an even larger Communist Party!) remained more open to the artistic and design possibilities inherent in Pop-art. For instance, it was an Italian design group comprising Jonathan De Pas (1932-91), Paolo Lomazzi (b.1936) and Donato d'Urbino (b.1935) that created "Joe Sofa" (1971) a sofa resembling a gigantic baseball mitt.


The Aims, Philosophy and Methods of Pop Art

No international art movement that lasts for more than 15 years and encompasses all known art types, genres and types of media, as well as entirely new forms, can be summed up in a few sentences. Even so, no understanding of Pop-art is possible without taking into account the following concepts which help to characterize its core.

Instant Meaning

The basic idea behind Pop-art was to create a form of art with instant meaning. This was in sharp contrast to the super-intellectualism of Abstract Expressionism with its esoteric canvases so beloved by arts professionals. To achieve their goal of instant meaning, Pop artists experimented with new commercial processes, like acrylic painting, collage on canvas using materials not normally associated with painting, and silkscreen printing. In addition, the imagery and colour schemes for most Pop-art painting and sculpture was taken from high-profile and easily recognizable consumerist or media sources such as: consumer goods, advertising graphics, magazines, television, film, cartoons and comic books. People and objects were presented in bright, often highly-contrasting colours, while compositions were typically very simple and visually appealing to the general public.

Art Can be Made From Anything

Up until the 20th century, traditional fine art painting was normally done in oils: sculpture in bronze, stone or wood. Furthermore, subjects were typically those deemed worthy of aesthetic treatment: the human nude, the human face, the classic landscape, genre-scene or still life. Even Cubism, despite its revolutionary nature, tended to observe many of these artistic conventions. Then came the First World War and the anti-art movement known as Dada. This movement initiated the idea that art can be created from all sorts of stuff, including the most banal everyday scraps of material. Pop-artists maintained and developed this idea. They presented the modern world of popular culture with whatever materials they though appropriate, no matter how low-brow or trivial.

The Idea is More Important Than the Work of Art Itself

Also, up until Dada, the essential feature of traditional fine art was the work itself - the painting, sculpture, etching, carving or whatever. Without a "work of art", there was nothing. All attention was therefore focused on the quality of the finished product, and the skills required to produce it. Dada rebelled against this by celebrating the "idea behind the artwork" rather than the work itself. Many Pop-artists continued this tradition of Conceptual Art. They placed more importance on the impact of the work, and less importance on the making of it. Like the use of low-brow materials, this emphasis on a work's concept and impact was interpreted as an attempt to debunk the gravitas of the art world. This was partly true: some Pop artists did share the anti-art and anti-aesthetic credo of earlier Dadaists. However, mainstream Pop was more positive and more concerned to create new forms of expression, using new methods and new pictorial imagery, than to denigrate tradition. Indeed, many Pop-artists saw themselves as contributing to, rather than junking, fine art.

A More Inclusive and More Relevant Style of Art

No matter how exquisitely conceived and painted, and how well received by influential art critics like Clement Greenberg (1909-94), Harold Rosenberg (1906-78) and others, Mark Rothko's monumental works of Abstract Expressionism were largely unknown to the American (or British) public at large. In contrast, almost everyone recognized Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and numerous other celebrities, as well as the popular foods and other branded products brands that rapidly became the staple subject of Pop-art. Thus from a very early stage, Pop-art declared its intention to reject the elitist character of traditional or high-brow art in favour of populist pictures of well-known subjects.

For most people in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a trip to an art museum entailed a tedious trawl past rows of obscure paintings, most of which were neither understandable nor entertaining. Typically, most famous works (and the artists who created them) could not be appreciated simply by viewing them, but required close study of a museum guidebook. Pop art was instrumental in opening up the world of painting and sculpture to ordinary people who, perhaps for the first time in their lives, could instantly recognize and appreciate the exhibit in front of them. They might not like it, but they were far less likely to feel intimidated by an everyday image they could relate to. In this sense, Pop-art made museums and galleries more relevant to the general public.

Holding the Mirror Up to Society

Unlike Dada, whose entirely negative aim was to subvert and undermine the values of a bourgeois establishment which they blamed for the carnage of World War I, Pop-art sought to reflect the social values and environment from which it sprang. Thus they focused on the preoccupations shared by most American consumers: food, cars and romance. Typically, this was achieved using brash, or satirical, imagery with strong visual impact. And if they were criticized for concerning themselves with such subject matter, they could simply say they were simply (in Shakespeare's words) "holding the mirror up to nature", or in their case "modern society". If nothing else, Pop-art was "the" post-war expression of a world wholly preoccupied the pursuit of materialism.

Postmodernist Tendencies

Pop-art began in painterly fashion, distinguished mainly by its new range of populist subjects which it hoped would convey a more relevant and up-to-date reality. Thereafter, it gradually became more and more concerned, not with depicting reality (or nature), but with impact, medium and style. Such a trend, which almost always leads to a blurring of the line between art and demonstration - between something of beauty and mere entertainment - is the hallmark of postmodernist art. For this reason, Pop-art may be considered the first movement to progress beyond modernism into the contemporary art era. In effect, Pop artists of the 1960s blazed a trail for Photorealism and later Britart and other similar contemporary styles that emerged in the decades that followed. They also paved the way for postmodernist building designs, which rehumanized American architecture significantly.

Critics Versus the Public and Collectors

Pop-art was often scorned by critics for its low-brow focus. For instance, Harold Rosenberg, one of the most influential art critics in the field of contemporary art, described it as being "Like a joke without humour, told over and over again until it begins to sound like a threat... Advertising art which advertises itself as art that hates advertising." In response, one might reasonably ask: With what should art concern itself, if not with the society it comes from? After all, even in the 1960s, one only had to watch television, with its unrelenting barrage of commercials, or drive along streets covered in advertising hoardings, or read glossy magazines packed with repetitive snapshots of music and film stars, to appreciate the intrinsically low-brow focus of modern life. Why should art be any different?

More importantly, Pop-art was (and still is) one of the most popular styles of art, which succeeded in getting through to the general public in a way that few modern art movements did - or have done since. And art collectors like it, too. For example, the painting "False Start" (1959) By Jasper Johns sold in 2006, for $80 million: the 9th most expensive work of art in history. (For more, see Top 10 Most Expensive Paintings). The work "Green Car Crash" (1963) (synthetic polymer, silkscreen ink and acrylic on linen) by Andy Warhol sold at Christie's, New York, in 2007, for $71.7 million, making it the 14th highest-priced work of art ever sold. (See Top 20 Most Expensive Paintings). Not bad for a work of low-brow art.

During the 2009 recession, an unknown buyer reportedly purchased Andy Warhol's screenprint Eight Elvises (1964) for a whopping $100 million (£60.5m) in a private sale, making it the 5th most expensive work of art ever sold.

Famous American Pop-Artists

Jim Dine - Robert Indiana - Jasper Johns - Alex Katz - Roy Lichtenstein
Claes Oldenburg - Robert Rauschenberg - James Rosenquist - Edward Ruscha
Andy Warhol

Jim Dine (b.1935)

Jim Dine was an exponent of Neo-Dada and Pop-art, specializing in collages, "readymades" (or "found objects composed") and Happenings. He first came to attention in 1959 with his Happenings, which he staged in collaboration with Claes Oldenburg, Allan Kaprow, and the avant-garde composer and conceptualist John Cage. In 1962, he was included, along with Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Robert Dowd, Phillip Hefferton, Joe Goode, Edward Ruscha, and Wayne Thiebaud, in the important Pop-art exhibition at Pasadena. During the 1960s Dine produced a range of artworks using items and images of pop-culture, occasionally resorting to Dada sensationalism, as in his installation event "Canticles to the Penis", which was closed by the police in London for being indecent.


Robert Indiana (b.1928)

Born Robert Clark, he began as an abstract painter and wood sculptor before joining the pop art movement in New York City in 1954. Discarded stencils led him to explore a range of word art by putting letters and words (eg. Love, Eat, Die) in his paintings which were based on the decor of pinball machines. He called himself the "American painter of signs." He is best known for his 1960s graphic image "Love", which first appeared on Christmas cards and stamps. Later he created a sculptural version, which he replicated in differing styles and languages including a steel Hebrew version - using the word "Ahava". In 2008, he created a new image employing the word "Hope" all of whose proceeds were donated to Barack Obama's election campaign fund.

Jasper Johns (b.1930)

Together with Rauschenberg, Johns was an early pioneer of Pop-art during the 1950s. Moving from South Carolina to New York in 1949, he first became known for his paintings featuring the American flag (eg. "Flag", 1954-55), as well as other standard graphical images like targets and numbers. He was also noted for including encaustic paint and plaster relief in his oil paintings. After his flag pictures, he began to incorporate real objects into his paintings and also took up sculpture (eg. "Ale Cans", 1964). His use of pop-culture images and materials naturally caused him to be labelled as a Pop-artist, but his artistic statements (including a good deal of Duchamp-like parody, paradox and contradictions) have also led his work to be described as Neo-Dadaist. More of a classical, painterly artist than many other younger practitioners of Pop who relied on techniques of modern commercial art, Johns' intelligent and innovative works attracted much praise and patronage. In due course he explored various other media, including silkscreen and intaglio prints, and lithographs. In 1998, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York reportedly paid $20 million for his work "White Flag", while in 2006, his work "False Start" was bought by private collectors for a reputed $80 million, making it the most expensive painting by a living artist.

Alex Katz (b.1927)

A unique figurative painter, though he has also worked in printmaking and sculpture, Katz was associated with the Pop art due to his reworking of traditional themes in a Pop idiom. He is known for his innovative recasting of ideas used by Impressionists (especially Edouard Manet, Claude Monet and Georges Seurat), such as the differing effects of light, and scenes of bourgeois leisure-seekers, executed using wet-in-wet oil techniques and loose brushwork. On the other hand, some of his works are rather bleakly presented, seemingly without emotion or sensitivity.

Roy Fox Lichtenstein (1923-97)

A leading Pop-artist with an instantly recognizable style, his works turned comic-strip graphics into an international art form. Beginning as an abstract artist in the 1950s, a teaching post at Rutgers University brought him into contact with fellow-teacher Allan Kaprow, and triggered his involvement in pop-culture art. He began by painting free-hand versions of comic-strip frames, complete with text bubbles (eg. "Look Mickey", 1961), and had a sell-out show at the New York gallery of Leo Castelli, in 1961. The following year his works appeared in both major 1962 exhibitions in Pasadena and New York. By late 1963, Lichtenstein began to achieve worldwide attention. Iconic works of the time included: "Drowning Girl" (1963), and "Whaam!" (1963). In 1989, at Christies sale of contemporary art in New York, Lichtenstein's painting "Torpedo...Los!" sold for $5.5 million - a record for the artist.

Claes Oldenburg (b.1929)

Regarded as the major Pop-art sculptor, renowned for his public art installations often featuring monumental replicas of everyday objects, especially foodstuffs like burgers and ice-cream cones. Active in New York from 1956, Oldenburg came into contact with Allan Kaprow, Jim Dine, and the sculptor George Segal, and became taken up with Happenings, and other forms of Performance and Installation art. Noted works included: "Dual Hamburger" (1962), as well as his giant lipstick erected at Yale University in 1969. His main contribution to Pop, similar to that of Rosenquist, was to turn commonplace objects into art.

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008)

Based largely in New York City, Rauschenberg - regarded, along with his some time lover Jasper Johns, as one of the leaders of Neo-Dada art - an early strain of Pop-art - studied at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, in 1948, under the ex-Bauhaus artist Josef Albers (famous for his "Homage to the Square" series). In 1951 he had his first one-man show at the Betty Parsons Gallery, and in 1954 had a second one-man show at the Charles Egan Gallery. Often described as a member of Neo-Dada for his affiliation with Marcel Duchamps "readymades", he is best known for his "Painting Combines" of the 1950s, consisting of non-traditional materials and objects presented in innovative combinations. At this time Rauschenberg specialized in using "found" materials like trash and other detritus which he collected off the streets of New York. However, from 1961 to 1962, he began to include images as well as found objects in his works, usually photographs transferred to the canvas via the silkscreen process. In this way, his work may be considered contemporaneous with that of Andy Warhol. Rauschenberg also worked in fine art photography, printmaking, papermaking, and performance.

James Rosenquist (b.1933)

A prominent Pop painter, Rosenquist trained at the Minneapolis School of Art and afterwards at the University of Minnesota. In 1955, aged 21, he moved to New York City to study at the Art Students League, before working as a billboard painter. Using his acquired sign-painting techniques to create large-scale paintings, he juxtaposed what appeared to be advertising with romantic-magazine imagery in order to produce a sense of discontinuity and irrationality as a commentary on modern life. A noted work at this time was his room-size painting "F-111" (1965). Like Oldenburg, Rosenquist's main contribution to Pop was to turn ordinary objects into art by giving them monumental size and weight.

Edward Ruscha (b.1937)

An Oklahoma guy who went hip in LA in 1956, Ruscha trained at the Chouinard Art Institute (now the California Institute of the Arts) until 1960 (being influenced by the art of both Marcel Duchamp and Jasper Johns), before working as a layout artist for the Carson-Roberts Advertising Agency in Los Angeles. In 1962, his paintings appeared alongside works by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Robert Dowd, Phillip Hefferton, Joe Goode, Jim Dine, and Wayne Thiebaud, in the ground-breaking show at the Pasadena Art Museum. His early noted works, generally icily perfect replications of billboards and gasoline stations, include: "Large Trademark with Eight Spotlights" (1961), and the oil painting "Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas."(1963), which had echoes of Hopper's "Gas" (1940). From the mid-1960s, he became known for his Word Paintings (also known as Liquid Word Paintings).

Andy Warhol (1928-87)

Seen by many as the High Priest of Pop-art, Warhol enjoyed a successful career as a commercial illustrator, before achieving worldwide fame for his pop-style painting, screenprints, avant-garde films, and a lifestyle involving a mixture of Hollywood stars, intellectuals, avant-garde artists and underground celebrities. His outlook on the impact of TV - a crucial factor in the identity and popularity of Pop-art - on art and life, is aptly summed up in his famous phrase: "Anyone can be famous for 15 minutes."

During the 1960s, he started producing paintings of iconic American products, like Campbell's Soup Cans, Coca-Cola bottles and dollar bills, together with images of international stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Ingrid Bergman, Elizabeth Taylor and Elvis Presley. He also established his famous New York art studio, known as "The Factory", where he anticipated Damien Hirst's mass production methods by more than 30 years.

Above all, Warhol's art revolved around iconography made famous through TV, newsfilm-clips and advertising, such as atomic bomb mushroom clouds, penitentiary electric chairs, car crashes and race riots. His pictures were therefore instantly recognizable and generated mass appeal.

Partly obscured by issues surrounding his fame and lifestyle, Warhol's status as an innovative and outstandingly creative artist is assured, not least for his transformation of commonplace images into icons of world art. In addition, he was exceptionally prolific, working across a wide range of media, including drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, and films.

Famous British Pop-Artists

Peter Blake - Patrick Caulfield - Richard Hamilton
David Hockney - Allen Jones - Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi

Peter Blake (b.1932)

First identified as a member of the emerging British Pop Art movement when he showed alongside David Hockney, R.B. Kitaj and others at the 'Young Contemporaries' exhibition, in 1961, Blake attracted wider attention when he featured in "Pop Goes the Easel", the 1962 film by Ken Russell on British Pop-art. However, he remains best known for designing the sleeve for the Beatles' "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album.


Patrick Caulfield (1936-2006)

Caulfield trained at the Chelsea School of Art in 1956, and at the Royal College of Art (1960-1963), where his fellow students included David Hockney and RB Kitaj. In 1964, his works were represented in the "New Generation" exhibition at London's Whitechapel Gallery, which first drew attention to his involvement in the UK Pop-art scene. He specialized in paintings which used ordinary subjects, dead-pan line and colour drawn from the vocabulary of advertising and cheap illustrations, to convey a lively intensity and humour. Often figurative, his works characteristically depict a few simple objects in an interior, executed using flat areas of simple colour (or a single hue) bordered in black outline.

Richard Hamilton (b.1922)

A co-founder of the Independent Group at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, the artist discussion group that engendered Pop-art in Britain, he is best known for his 1956 collage entitled "Just What Is It that Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?" - now regarded as one of the first examples of British Pop-art. In the mid-1950s after several solo shows, Hamilton took up teaching in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne during which time he pursued a research project on the French contemporary artist Marcel Duchamp, a figure much admired by Hamilton. In the early 1960s he was awarded a grant from the UK Arts Council to curate and preserve the Kurt Schwitters Dadaist "Merzbau" collection of collages, in Cumbria. Also active in London, as an artist, teacher and CND campaigner, Hamilton curated a major British retrospective of Duchamp's work at the Tate Gallery in 1966. In addition, his contacts within the contemporary music scene led to a friendship with Paul McCartney which resulted in Hamilton's cover design and poster art for the Beatles' White Album.

David Hockney (b.1937)

An important contributor to UK Pop art of the 1960s, and a brilliant draughtsman, David Hockney is one of the most outstanding British artists of the twentieth century. He was represented in the Young Contemporaries Exhibition (1961), that signalled the appearance of British Pop Art - although his work was by no means confined to this style. In 1963 he visited New York where he met Andy Warhol. After this, he visited Los Angeles in California, the state which later became his home for many years. The Los Angeles trip inspired him to create a series of paintings, featuring swimming pools, using the new medium of acrylics. The pictures were executed in a flat but highly realistic style, employing vibrant colours. Noted works from the 1960s include "Peter Getting Out Of Nick's Pool" (1966), which won the John Moores painting prize at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, the following year; "Sunbather" (1966); and "A Bigger Splash" (1967), which was purchased in 2006 for £2.6 million - a record for a Hockney painting.

Allen Jones (b.1937)

One of the founders of British Pop-art, Jones uses simple figurative imagery, combined with bright, bold colour. He is best known for his erotic sculpture (eg. the set Chair, Table and Hat Stand, 1969). Other notable works include: "Wet Seal" (1966) and "What Do You Mean, What Do I Mean?" He is also a graphic artist and oil painter.

Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi (1924-2005)

The founder of British Pop-art, Paolozzi trained at the Edinburgh College of Art (1943), St Martin's School of Art (1944), and at the Slade School of Art (1944-1947), before working in Paris, France (1947-1949) where he met and became influenced by a number of famous artists, including the Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti, the former Dadaist and Surrealist Jean Arp, the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi, and the Cubists Georges Braque and Fernand Léger. His seminal collage "I was a Rich Man's Plaything" (1947) dates from this Parisian period. Back in London, working with sculptures, constructions, collages and lithograph prints, in a largely surrealist style, his compositions included a wide variety of objects and materials. He was a leading founder of the Independent Group in 1952, whose discussions anticipated much of the soon-to-emerge pop art school.

List of Pop-Art Works

Here is a short selected list of famous works by Pop-artists.

• I was a Rich Man's Plaything (1947) Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi
• Flag (1954-5) Jasper Johns
• Bed (1955) Robert Rauschenberg
• Just What Is It that Makes Today's Homes So Different? (1956) R. Hamilton
• Monogram (1959) Robert Rauschenberg
• President Elect (1960) James Rosenquist
• Mr Bellamy (1961) Roy Lichtenstein
• Large Trademark with Eight Spotlights (1961) Ed Ruscha
• Dual Hamburger (1962) Claes Oldenburg
• 210 Coca-Cola Bottles (1962) Andy Warhol
• Marilyn Monroe (1962) Andy Warhol
• Campbell's Soup Can (1962) Andy Warhol
• Floor Cake (1962) Claes Oldenburg
• Triple Elvis (1963) Andy Warhol
• Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas (1963) Ed Ruscha
• Drowning Girl (1963) Roy Lichtenstein
• Whaam! (1963) Roy Lichtenstein
• Estate (1963) Robert Rauschenberg
• Field Painting (1963-64) Jasper Johns
• Love (1964) Robert Indiana
• Ale Cans (1964) Jasper Johns
• Brillo (1964) And Warhol
• Choke (1964) Robert Rauschenberg
• Retroactive (1964) Robert Rauschenberg
• Great American Nude #57 (1964) Tom Wesselmann
• F111 (1964-65) James Rosenquist
• The Diner (1964-66) George Segal
• Electric Chair (1965) Andy Warhol
• Big Painting No. 6 (1965) Roy Lichtenstein
• Soft Toilet (1966) Claes Oldenburg
• Ingrid Bergman (1966) Andy Warhol
• A Bigger Splash (1967) David Hockney
• Lisp (1968) Edward Ruscha
• Geometric Mouse, Scale A (1969) Claes Oldenburg
• Souvenir (1970) Jasper Johns
• Jo Sofa (1971) De Pas, Lomazzi, D'Urbino
• Floor Burger (1971) Claes Oldenburg
• Still Life with Goldfish Bowl (1972) Roy Lichtenstein


During the 1980s there was a revival of interest in Pop Art - a phenomenon known as Neo-Pop (or "Shock Pop-Art"). It was not a new art movement as such, rather a resurgence of artworks based on popular culture - this time derived from the 1980s. While the original Pop Art movement was totally avant garde, Neo-Pop Art is more of a repetition. Thus Neo-Pop artists continue to employ "readymades" and pre-existing items in their worksand also rely heavily on celebrity icons like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and so on. They also draw inspiration from Minimalism, Conceptual Art, Photorealism, Installation/Performance Art and more. If anything, Neo-Pop is merely a more extreme version of Warhol, Oldenburg and Rauschenberg.

The leading exponent of Neo-Pop is Jeff Koons (b.1955), about whom renowned critic Robert Hughes wrote that: "Koons really does think he's Michelangelo and is not shy to say so. The significant thing is that there are collectors, especially in America, who believe it. He has the slimy assurance, the gross patter about transcendence through art, of a blow-dried Baptist selling swamp acres in Florida. And the result is that you can't imagine America's singularly depraved culture without him." Echoes of the criticism addressed to Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst? (In 2005, Koons was elected as a Fellow to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.)

Other leader exponents include Katharina Fritsch, Daniel Edwards, and Yasumasa Morimura. Iconic works of Neo-Pop, both by Jeff Koons, include "Michael Jackson and Bubbles" (1988) - sold in 1991 for $5.6 million - and "Puppy" (1992). See also: Top Contemporary Artists 2014.

Famous Neo-Pop Artists

Ashley Bickerton, Rah Crawford, Daniel Edwards, Katharina Fritsch, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, Jeff Koons, Mark Kostabi, Yngvar Larsen, Allan McCollum, Komar and Melamid, Cady Noland, Charles Ray, Kenny Scharf, Haim Steinbach, Gavin Turk.

List of Neo-Pop Art Works

Keith Haring
Radiant Baby (c.1980) Street art image, New York.
Crack is Wack (1986) mural, Harlem, New York.

David Wojnarowicz
Water (1987) Mixed-media work.
Death of American Spirituality (1987) Mixed-media work.

Jeff Koons
New Hoover Convertibles (1984)
Rabbit (1986)
Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988)
Popples (1988)
Dirty: Jeff on Top (1991)
Blow Job: Ice (1991)
Puppy (1992)
Triple Elvis (2007)

Yasumasa Morimura
Portrait Twin (1988)

Matthew Barney
Cremaster 4 (1994)
Cremaster 1: Goodyear Chorus (1995)

Katharina Fritsch
Mann und Maus / Man and Mouse (1991-92)
Rat-King (1993)
Pistol (2006)

Daniel Edwards
Monument to Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean Preston (Britney Spears) (2006)
Bust of Hillary Rodham Clinton (2006)
Paris Hilton Autopsy (2007)
Prince Harry Dead in Iraq War Memorial (2007)

• For more about 20th-century painting/sculpture, see: Visual Arts Encyclopedia.

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