History of Pop Art

The history of pop art begins with abstract art. Pop art emerged from the foundation of abstract art in the 1950s, first gaining recognition in Great Britain, then establishing itself in the United States in the 1960s.

The Abstract Era
In the 1930s and '40s, abstract art was all the rage, but people began to resent the high cost and inaccessibility of this art form. Most abstract art produced in this era could be found in art galleries or the homes of the elite, not in the homes of everyday people. Pop art sprung onto the scene as the people's art, an artistic commentary on everyday life.

Some art critics say pop art is a rebellion against abstract art; others say it is an extension of abstract art. You can see elements of abstract art in many pop art prints, especially those that consist of a collage of images. However, some pop art pieces have nothing to do with abstract art, looking more like a still life image of a popular consumer item. Pop art gained wide acceptance because it merged advertising, modern culture and fine art, and because prints could be mass produced, making it possible for anyone to own a piece of pop art.

Pop Art Pioneers
When the first pop art artists began creating this form, they did so as a conscious group introducing a new art form to the world. Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi, two of the first contemporary pop art pioneers recognized in Great Britain, were a part of the Independent Group, an organized group of British artists who recognized the value of modern advertising and comic book images. They used these popular images in art as a social commentary, often building irony and humor into their artworks. These pieces were mass-produced and sold at affordable prices.

When pop art took off in the United States, it expanded to include a celebration of kitsch and the common images found in movies and television. Andy Wharhol is perhaps the most famous American pop art artist, known for his prints of Marilyn Monroe and of Campbell's soup cans. Andy Wharhol was inspired by images from advertisements and common consumer items, but he also took a great interest in altering photographs of real people.

While there are still artists producing new pop art, the movement itself took place from1958 to 1975.

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