Art & Culture Since 1945: Types & Artists

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Analyzing & Examining the Causes of War in Western Civilization: Essay Prompts

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:02 Post-WII Culture
  • 0:35 Television
  • 3:00 Music
  • 5:06 Art
  • 6:53 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we explore the art and culture of post-World War II Western society, from the fledgling television programming to the disparate directions of 20th-century art.

Post-WWII Culture

From the time of the Renaissance, popular art and culture have always been reflective of the values, concerns, and goals of a society. Western culture in the 20th century was no different. However, instead of merely having the century's artwork and sculptures to contemplate, numerous entertainment media proliferated during the century, from television to pop music, which shows us what was important to the artists and to society itself. This lesson will detail several of the important movements and trends of post-World War II Western culture.


Perhaps the post-war medium which we are most familiar with today is the television. Believe it or not, even though nearly every household has at least one television today, prior to World War II (WWII) televisions were a novelty and the programming options were few and far between. After WWII, the television exploded in popularity and new networks gained traction on the airwaves. Viewers could now see live events from the comfort of their own homes.

Remember, they previously would have had to listen to them described on the radio. Many of Western culture's most popular radio shows were converted and filmed for television, including one of the most successful programs of all time, The Lone Ranger. By the end of the WWII, several of the major networks, namely NBC and CBS, were setting up affiliate broadcasting stations in major metropolitan areas like New York and Washington D.C.

Cable television, which today brings subscribers thousands of different programs on hundreds of different channels, was first pioneered in Pennsylvania in the late 1940s. Innovations, such as devices which boosted the signal over long-distance cable lines, allowed cable to spread quickly in the 1950s, and by 1962, nearly 800 cable systems across the United States were bringing cable television to approximately 850,000 homes.

In order to fill all these new systems with programming, television programs, like sitcoms and evening dramas, were produced at an incredible speed. These early shows, like The Partridge Family and The Brady Bunch often functioned within and reinforced the moral codes of the day and rarely strayed into contentious territory.

As cable television expanded and pay television services like HBO were born in the 1970s and 1980s, programming slowly became racier and the strict codes governing on-screen violence, sexuality, and language slightly relaxed, mimicking the same relaxation of traditional social codes in everyday life. This widening of programming scope expanded in the 1980s and 1990s, when government deregulation fostered the proliferation of cable stations and similar cable programming. Today, television is again looking to expand, but this time into other 21st-century media, such as Internet and on-demand services.


Popular music is likely as old as human civilization itself, but only in the post-WWII West was the spread of single tracks or entire albums of music possible due to the vinyl record. First pioneered in the 1930s, the vinyl record exploded in popularity in the 1950s. Prior to the vinyl record, live shows or expensive and poor-quality gramophone records were the only way to experience music. With the advent of the record, bands, orchestras, and individual singers could record their best versions of their most popular songs in a studio and record it on a record to be reproduced and sold to the mass market.

This allowed music to be enjoyed in the home as well as in the music hall, and a corresponding proliferation of music styles, bands, and genres occurred alongside the growth in the record's popularity. Rock music arguably began with popular bands and singers, like Elvis, Buddy Holly, and The Beatles, who utilized new instruments like the electric guitar and broke many of the conventions of pre-war popular music, which before WWII had largely been focused on big band, orchestral arrangements.

With wider access to music available, rock, along with a multitude of sub-genres and competing genres, flourished in the second half of the 20th century. From the disco of the 1970s to the burgeoning hip-hop genre of the late 1980s and early 1990s, it's unlikely many of these types of music would have gained the nationwide popularity they had without the dissemination of music through the record or its descendant, the compact disc, or CD.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account