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Pop Art

Pop Art

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will examine Pop Art, mass media, and kitsch.

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Tutorial

An overview of Pop Art.

Video Transcription

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell. And today's lesson is about pop art. As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as often as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, describe the context that influenced the development of pop art, and identify examples of pop art. The key terms are listed in yellow, as always, throughout the lesson.

First key term is pop art, an art movement where the artist uses common products and images that symbolically represent culture to create artwork. Popular culture, fads, favorites, or well-known commercial objects or activities used by the general public. Found object, everyday objects or materials not usually viewed in the context of fine art that are used by artists to create works of art.

Mass media, any number of ways information is quickly transmitted to large numbers of people, including through newspapers, television, internet, or radio. Kitsch, a term given artwork that is characterized by exaggerated nostalgia or gaudy poor taste. And cultural icons, objects or people important or considered valuable in a specific culture. And the big idea for today is that pop art undermines the exclusive and elitist nature of high art by incorporating the imagery of popular culture.

And the art that we're looking at today dates from between 1956 and 1999. We're traveling to London, England, which is the home of Richard Hamilton, and New York City where Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein both worked and died and where Claes Oldenburg currently lives and works.

So before we get into, it let's take a moment to examine what pop art is in a nutshell. So pop art undermines the elitist nature of art, incorporates cultural icon depictions, elements from advertisements, cartoons, and comics. Pop art traces its origins back to the work of what was called the Independent Group, which was a group of artists, architects, and writers in Great Britain in the 1950s, and the work of Richard Hamilton, who was also a member of that group.

Although primarily a painter, Hamilton is perhaps best remembered for his collage titled Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing. Procuring the images from American magazines, Hamilton assembled this composition and displayed it at the art exhibition, This is Tomorrow, in England in 1956. Now, it's a collection of contemporary for the time.

Magazine clippings had simultaneously acknowledge the pop culture and modernity of the time while departing from the avant garde notions of art proposed by the art critic, Clement Greenberg. The influence of Dada collage and the Dada artist, Marcel Duchamp's, concept of the ready-made or found objects that are turned into a work of art can't be overlooked.

Pop art and Andy Warhol, the artists are synonymous. He is likely the most famous member of this genre and one of the most famous American artists of the 20th century, often argued as the most important American artist of the later 20th century. Now like other pop artists, Warhol used art to undermine the exclusive and elitist nature of high art, especially abstract expressionism and the ideas of art critic, Clement Greenberg regarding the avant garde and kitsch.

And he did this by incorporating the imagery of popular culture. Now one of his favorite subjects was Marilyn Monroe, who was an enormously popular celebrity who is believed to have become overwhelmed by the pressures associated with her status and died of a drug overdose in 1962. Now this work of art was completed soon after her death. It portrays multiples of a single image of Marilyn Monroe with the left side brightly colored and the right side black and white, eventually fading away.

Now given the timing of the art work and knowledge of her personal life, it very well may be symbolic of the duality of her first celebrity and personal life. Two sides of the same coin. One brightly colored and full of life. The other monochromatic reality that slowly fades away.

Now where British artists examined pop art from a more critical point of view, American artists created works that often incorporated parity and a point of view from within the phenomenon. Now Warhol commented once-- and I'm paraphrasing-- that pop artists celebrated and portrayed the imagery that abstract expressionists spent their time trying to avoid. Now despite his popularity and status, Warhol seemed grounded in how his art made connections to the culture and values he had been exposed to growing up during the Great Depression.

One of his most famous images is that of one of the most recognizable and iconic brands in America. There are 32 different portraits, if you will, corresponding to the available 32 flavors of soup that existed at the time with the Campbell's Soup Company. Now when arranged for display, they were positioned with four rows of eight cans as if on a shelf in a grocery store.

There's an apparent fascination with Warhol in mass production in the iconic status of products within American culture. And like his painting of Coca Cola bottles, Campbell's Soup Can seems to function as both an homage to and recognition of the brand's ubiquity.

Now where Andy Warhol tended to depict and immortalize specific icons of American culture, such as products and people, the artist, Roy Lichtenstein, immortalized a particular genre of American consumption, that of comic books. Now his images were very faithful to their influence using identical visual themes and even printing techniques. Now what's interesting is in how his work masked more personal themes. He took excerpts from comic panels depicting moments of tension or possible tragedy and created works of art that lasted ad infinitum. In other words, unlike the fanciful reality of the romance comics upon which these images were based, real life doesn't always end so happily.

Claes Oldenburg is a pop artist whose medium was sculpture. And his Typewriter Eraser, Scale X sculpture depicts his interest in elevating the status of everyday items that he found particularly interesting. Now like other pop artists, he was challenging previous notions of art. Within sculpture, he was challenging the idea that public works of art were limited to simply historical figures or historical events. His image of a giant, falling eraser instead commemorates an object of interest from his childhood and immortalizes an object that would typically be forgotten or even discarded.

So that brings us to the end of our lesson today. Let's take a look at our objectives again to see if we met them. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms?

Can you describe the context that influence the development of pop art? And can you identify examples of pop art? And once again, the big idea for today is that pop art undermines the exclusive and elitist of high art by incorporating the imagery of popular culture.

And that's it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Notes on "Pop Art"


Citations

Richard Hamilton, Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?, Fair Use According to Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hamilton-appealing2.jpg Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup I, Fair Use According to Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Warhol-Campbell_Soup-1-screenprint-1968.jpg Warhol, Marilyn Diptych, Fair Use According to Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Marilyndiptych.jpg Oldenbug and van Bruggen, Typewriter Eraser, Scale X, Fair Use According to Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Typewriter-eraser.JPG; Image of Lichtenstein, Drowning Girl, Fair Use According to Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Roy_Lichtenstein_Drowning_Girl.jpg

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Pop Art

    An art movement where the artist uses common products and images that symbolically represent culture to create artwork.

  • Popular Culture

    Fads, favorites, or well-known commercial objects or activities used by the general public.

  • Found Object

    Everyday objects or materials not usually viewed in the context of fine art that are used by artists to create works of art.

  • Mass Media

    Any number of ways information is quickly transmitted to large numbers of people including through newspapers, television, internet, or radio.

  • Kitsch

    A term given to artwork that is characterized by exaggerated nostalgia or gaudy poor taste.

  • Cultural Icons

    Objects or people important or considered valuable in a specific culture.