Pop Art: Imagery, Influence & Examples

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  • 0:01 Pop Art
  • 0:45 Materials and Imagery
  • 3:07 Influences on Pop Art
  • 5:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Pop art was a very unique movement of the mid-20th century that drew from the most unlikely of sources. Explore the influences and images of pop art and test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Pop Art

I'm willing to bet you've heard of pop music, and you've probably heard of pop culture. Really, the word 'pop' just means popular, or something common to the average people, as opposed to something that is only accessible to a small portion of people. Amongst the things in our society to go pop, there's also art. Pop art is the mid-late 20th-century movement that used images from popular culture to create fine art. Pop art reflects our material culture but in a way that intellectually critiques our society. And, the result is some truly eye-popping art.

Materials and Imagery

Pop art collage

Pop art is characterized by the use of images and items from popular culture. Here is one of the earliest works of pop art, Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?', created by English artist Richard Hamilton in 1956. This is a collage, an image created by assembling various materials onto the same surface. This means that Hamilton did not paint or create most of the images here. In fact, almost everything you see was cut out of popular American magazines, like the Ladies' Home Journal. By taking these images out of context and assembling them together, Hamilton gave them an entirely different purpose. He used images from popular culture to create an image that critiqued popular culture through irony and satire. And, that is the idea behind pop art.

Pop art constantly relied on images from popular culture, but artists found different ways to do this. Roy Lichtenstein, one of the most famous pop artists, used the popular style of comics. This is one of his most famous pieces, Drowning Girl, which he created in 1963.

Drowning Girl

Lichtenstein painted this but carefully modeled it after the cover of the DC comic entitled Run for Love. So, the intent is to make it seem as cheap and cliché as possible, which opens up some interesting commentary on the world of fine art. Other artists explored the processes that created popular culture, like industrial scale advertising, and studied the effect that this had on images.

Campbells Soup Cans

This is Campbell's Soup Cans, created by Andy Warhol in 1962. The entire piece consists of 32 individual canvases, each with a screen-printed image of a Campbell's soup can. Through works like this, Warhol emphasized the idea that images become meaningless with the constant, impersonal reproduction of the modern world. But, he also celebrated mass marketing and advertising for its boldness, and many pop artists like Warhol expressed the belief that the line between commercial art and fine art was too thin not to be crossed.

Influences on Pop Art

So where did this artistic movement come from? Well, obviously it was influenced by mass-marketing and advertising, as well as popular culture; comic books, celebrity magazines, home and interest journals, posters, ads in the Sunday paper, anything being created and distributed on a massive scale could be turned into art. When the pop artists created a work of art, the images themselves were already well-recognized, so the viewer only had to focus on the meaning of the piece, not its visual traits.

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