Understanding the Pop Art Movement and the Pieces That Define It

Ever since its emergence almost 70 years ago, the Pop Art movement has remained a popular artistic medium to this day

Ever since its emergence almost 70 years ago, the Pop Art movement has remained a popular artistic medium to this day, with fans of the style continuing to enjoy the old and new pieces that marked the beginning of contemporary art as we know it.

But what exactly is Pop Art, how did it begin, and what are the pieces that best define the style? Let’s dive right in.

What is the Pop Art Movement?

The Pop Art movement emerged during a period of post-war optimism amidst a cultural revolution during the end of the 1950s. During a period of economic growth across both the US and UK, a new consumerist culture was embraced. 

This post-war consumerist boom combined with the cultural transformation of the time meant that among other developments, television replaced radio as the mainstream media outlet and the mass production of goods was perpetuated. 

This led to a new emergence of artists and creatives who championed the Abstract Expressionist movement, of which Pop Art is a subsection of. These artists were inspired by the mundane, the everyday - celebrating everything from comic books to soup cans.

This movement is often referred to as a direct descendant from the Dadaism movement of the 1920s, which set out to prove that “if everything could be art, then nothing could be art”. Pop Art does this as it subverts the work within the ‘traditional’ art world and presents the ordinary as art in and of itself.


What Are the Most Defining Pieces of Pop Art?

The style of Pop Art is so iconic that the mere mention of soup cans and comic books above is likely to bring to mind specific art pieces for many familiar with the genre. 

Let’s take a deeper look at the pieces that most define the genre as well as the artists behind them.

Whaam! By Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein became a leading figure in the Pop Art movement during the 1960s, with his work being inspired by tongue-in-cheek representations through comic strips. 

“Pop Art looks out into the world. It doesn't look like a painting of something, it looks like the thing itself.” - Roy Lichtenstein 

Whaam! Is considered to be one of Lichtenstein’s most defining pieces and indeed one of the most famous examples of Pop Art altogether. Created in 1963, this diptych piece forms part of a series on war and inspired by an issue of 1962 DC Comic books titled ‘All-American Men of War’. 

The Store by Claes Oldenburg

Claes Oldenburg is a Swedish-American sculpturist whose pop art typically featured large scale renditions of regular everyday objects. From shuttlecocks to lipstick and clothespins, no mundane item was off limits.

“I am for an art that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum.” Claes Oldenburg

The Store may be considered as one of Oldenburg’s most famous pop art pieces as it subverted the practice of selling art via a gallery. Instead, Oldenburg opened up a storefront and sold sculptures of various everyday items such as undergarments and pastries constructed with painted plaster. 

Campbell's Soup Cans by Andy Warhol  

Close friend of Jean Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol was another leading figure within the Pop Art movement, operating in the 1960s alongside Roy Lichtenstein. Initially beginning his career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol began exhibiting his works in galleries in the late 1950s and before long had cemented himself in the Pop Art scene as an influential and controversial figurehead. 


Art is what you can get away with” - Andy Warhol


Campbells Soup Cans is undoubtedly one of Warhol’s most recognisable pieces and its release marked the debut of Pop Art in the West Coast of the USA. This piece came about as Warhol was looking for inspiration and a friend of his suggested using something that everyone recognised, such as the famous soup brand. From there, the rest is history. 

Pop Art is a highly recognisable art form and is one that many still revere as groundbreaking to this day.

Fans of Roy Lichtenstein’s work will be pleased to know that Hancock Gallery will soon be showing new prints by the artist, so watch this space for their arrival!

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