Key Dates: 1950-1960
This movement was marked by a fascination with popular culture reflecting the affluence in post-war society. It was most prominent in American art but soon spread to Britain. In celebrating everyday objects such as soup cans, washing powder, comic strips and soda pop bottles, the movement turned the commonplace into icons.
Pop Art is a direct descendant of Dadaism in the way it mocks the established art world by appropriating images from the street, the supermarket, the mass media, and presents it as art in itself. Artists such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg took familiar objects such as flags and beer bottles as subjects for their paintings, while British artist Richard Hamilton used magazine imagery. The latter’s definition of Pop Art – “popular, transient, expendable, low-cost, mass-produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, and Big Business” – stressed its everyday, commonplace values.
It was Andy Warhol, however, who really brought Pop Art to the public eye. His screen prints of Coke bottles, Campbell’s soup tins and film stars are part of the iconography of the 20th century. Pop Art owed much to dada in the way it mocked the established art world. By embracing commercial techniques, and creating slick, machine-produced art, the Pop artists were setting themselves apart from the painterly, inward-looking tendencies of the Abstract Expressionist movement that immediately preceded them. The leading artists in Pop were Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Roy Hamilton, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Claes Oldenburg.