The Pop Art Movement

Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Peter Blake, David Hockney… as British TV channel BBC Four launches its Pop Art season this week, we ask, what is pop art and where did it come from?

Pop Art, an art movement or style that came out of the post-war West was a significant turning point in contemporary art and culture. So iconic were the artists and art of this movement that it continues to influence art in all its forms today.

As the West came out of the bleak and austere 40s and early 50s in which World War II had ravaged communities, resources and economies, consumerism began to emerge like never before. The rise of the ad man (as depicted in series such as Mad Men) and advertising as an industry, coupled with a new appetite for movies, Hollywood glamour and a renewed joie de vivre of the post-war generation set a tone for society that was upbeat, confident and classless. A culture that embraced bold colours, streamlined designs and bright, slick, stylish entertainment was in sharp contrast to the simple and unassuming eras that had gone before. The atmosphere was ripe for something new, and so Pop Art was born! Taking its cue from commercial and advertising designs the art form reflected a return to the realities of peoples’ every day life – but depicted in a unique, iconic style; bold colours (originally yellow, red and blue) and strong black outlines.

It was so inspired by the visual entertainment favoured by the masses: film (Warhol’s Monroe), magazines, comics (Lichtenstein’s Ohhh…Alright… pictured), advertisements (Warhol’s Soup Cans or Hockney’s Typhoo Tea) – that it actually represents the return to popular culture, thus the name ‘pop’.

The rise of pop art in the West seemed to coincide quite serendipitously with New York, USA becoming a dominant force in the international art market, which began to increasingly mimic the fashion industry. As the natural synergies between art, fashion and entertainment seemed to emerge, Pop Art and the artists of the day were able to become household names in a way that had rarely been seen with earlier modern artists and art movements.

Later this week: Most collectible Pop Artists and UK vs USA