Pop Art Research Paper


The 20th century was characterized by significant changes in all spheres of human life, which were particularly obvious in economic life of the society. In general the main trend may be characterized as a trend to commercialization regardless the sphere of life of human society. Unfortunately, art, being a constituent part of the development of any society was also significantly influenced by this trend and new movements started to appear for which commercial success of artist was particularly important. Among these movements may be named numerous movements constituting Pop Art.

This trend is particularly noteworthy because art has always played an important role in the life of human society. It was important regardless the level of the development of human civilization and time because it was quite natural for people to be a kind of artists. Otherwise, mankind would hardly be able to make such a progress that has been made within thousands of years, and particularly within the last century.

At this respect it is worth to mention that the 20th century, being a period of great changes in art, may be also interpreted as a very important period, a point when art gradually evolved and got to be a part of mass culture based on the purely commercial principles of mass production.

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The essence of Pop Art

In general it should be said that the 20th century is characterized by many as a period of decline of classical art and classical art movement that is, to a significant extent, the result of a rapid and to a certain extent unparalleled development of modern art movements and appearance of such phenomenon as pop art.

Pop Art is very complicated phenomenon to study and to understand because Pop Art movements often introduce innovative ideas and absolutely original techniques. Moreover, Steven Henry Madoff in his book Pop Art: A Critical History underlines that “Pop Art of the 20the century may be called the art of originality and uniqueness” basically because every modern movement of Pop Art tends to be independent and different from others.

Speaking about development of Pop Art and about its basic characteristics it is primarily necessary to briefly define what it is and reveal its essence. This will provide us with a possibility to better understand its nature and define the basic characteristics, which are typical for Pop Art and which are probably unique for Pop Art movements.

First of all, it should be said that L. Alloway argues that Pop Art may be defined in different ways “either as a reaction to dominant ideas of abstract expressionism, or as an expansion upon them”. It is noteworthy that Alloy’s definition of Poop Art and certain criticism was a kind of responds to the works of such artists as Richard Hamilton, Andy Warhol and other representatives of new art movements.

Furthermore, it should be said that Pop Art movements have started their development since 1950s and the countries where they were particularly spread were Great Britain and the United States.

Naturally, Pop Art was not developed in one day as something absolutely new but, on the contrary, it was rather a result of a quite rapid development of art in the 20th century and its main peculiarities. Nonetheless, Pop Art is really a unique phenomenon that appeared in the art of the 20th century and is the characteristic of it. At this respect, it is worth to mention that D. Hebdige in his book Visual Culture underlines that initially this art “was a movement that departed from the clichés of boldness so often portrayed in modern art”. It means that pop art originates from modern art and consequently modernist movements, which were the characteristic of art, especially in the 20th century.

At the same time, it is necessary to say that pop art is traditionally associated with a big problem because there are two contradictive views on pop art. On the one hand, Charles Harrison and Paul Wood in their book Art in Theory 1900-2000 estimate that art is not art at all. It means that some specialists, basically conservatives, believe that Pop Art is not an independent form of art but it is rather a product of mass culture deprived of any artistic value and consequently useless.

On the other hand, the authors also underline that the opponents of such point of view believe that “pop art is quite progressive and perspective direction”, and they estimate that this is the way, which modern art should develop in. moreover, they stand on the ground that art is permanently changing and Pop Art is just a new trend that would be general line for art in the future.

However, in actuality the truth is somewhere in the middle because it does not necessarily mean that Pop Art is not art. On the contrary, many specialists and critics for instance Nikos Stangos, recognize Pop Art. At this respect it is noteworthy that Nikos Stangos, in his book Concept of Modern Art, underlines that Pop Art is a constituent part of the modern art and it may be perceived as a logical continuation of the art development of the previous historical epochs.

At the same time, speaking about the perspectives of Pop Art it is important to be very careful because, on the basis of the idea of art, as “a permanently changing and developing structure”, it is very difficult to forecast its future perspectives and nobody knows what Pop Art would be in the future like if it would be at all, at least in its present form.

Nonetheless, it is still necessary to emphasize that Pop Art is quite a unique phenomenon because it is significantly different if we compared it with any famous trends in art in the past. Obviously this fact makes Pop Art even more interesting for both artists and critics as well as for wide audience. However, it should be pointed out that often representatives of Pop Art face a very serious problem when the audience simply do not understand their works because, as it is widely known, the wide audience, or at least its conservative part, often does not perceive the works of Pop Art as artist see them or wanted their works were perceived. As a result the audience does not want to recognize them as noteworthy because they remain a kind of terra incognita for them.

Naturally, such view is too radical and to a certain extent not professional because in actuality pop art is “a regeneration and renewal from the nearly two decade reign of abstract art” It finds its reflection in the fact that pop artists disconnected themselves from the idea that art must contain meaning in the abstract. By the way, this is probably another reason why pop artists remain to be misunderstood by certain part of the audience.

Nowadays, the popularity of Pop Art have been constantly growing since 1950s and such a progress is obviously the result of work of such outstanding artists as Andy Warhol, Richard Hamilton, David, Hockney, Peter Phillips, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and many others, who developed this unique and original art movement.

Commercialization of Pop Art

It is very important to underline that despite the fact that the popularity of Pop Art grew, there was another important problem that a rapid development of Pop Art raised, the problem of its commercialization.

In fact, on reflecting on the role of Pop Art, its significance and nature, many specialists concluded that it is highly commercialized and that it is a part of mass culture. To a certain extent such position is quite reasonable because often Pop Art is perceived as just a popular trend in the art and often artistic works are bought simply because they are popular regardless their artistic value.
Ion order to better understand the commercialization of Pop Art, it is necessary to briefly discuss the work of some pop artists that actually shaped the public image of Pop Art and developed its basic trends.

First of all, it is necessary to say a few words about Andy Wahrol who may be considered as a founder of Pop Art in the US. The media called him the ‘Prince of Pop’ and he was really successful since he made his way from Pittsburgh working class family to an American legend. Andy was very talented in drawing and painting but his first big break was in August 1949 when Glamour Magazine asked him to illustrate an article called “Success is a Job in New York”. By 1955 Andy Warhol had almost all of New York copying his work. Also Andy Warhol was into doing popular items Coca-Cola and celebrity faces, like Marilyn Monroe and painting was his real passion. His “Campbell’s Soup Can” is a classic and an easily recognized work of Andy’s.

It is very important to underline that when he started his work as an artist he wanted to remove the difference between fine arts and commercial arts and he also wanted to mass produce his own pop art. His favorite printmaking technique was silkscreen that came closest to his idea of proliferation of art.

On June 3rd, 1968, the event that significantly influenced his further life happened. On this day, Valerie Solanis shot Andy Warhol three times in the chest but luckily the artist escaped the death. After this event he has never recovered fully that probably influenced his creative work. Remarkably that since that time he has been spending most of his time making portraits of rich and affluent of his time like Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, and Brigitte Bardot and his work became more and more entrepreneurial and he said that “making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art” (Bockris 1987). Nonetheless he still remained a significant heritage in pop art.

Another representative of Pop Art, Richard Hamilton, may be considered the founder of British Pop Art. One of his most famous works is the collage titled Just What Is It that Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appeling? (1956). Like, Andy Warhol he also initially started as an artist whose views on art were absolutely far from commercial life but gradually, he started to cooperate with outstanding and famous people like Paul McCartney and Beatles and commercial success arrived.

However, his trend to treat the art as a part of mass culture, or mass production may be observed even in his works, including his early one mentioned above since he underlines practical or even utilitarian aspects of life, promoting consumerist values.

At this respect, another artist, Roy Lichtenstein, is very similar to him but unlike Richard Hamilton and Andy Warhol, he simply “borrowed heavily from popular advertising and comic book style” that was particularly obvious in his work Roto Broil (1961) and that symbolized the consumerist attitude to art he promoted by his work.


Thus, in conclusion, it is possible to say that the development of art of the 20th century was characterized by the growing popularity of Pop Art, which actually was not always understood by the wide audience. At the same time, Pop Art managed to become a sort of mass art promoting consumerist lifestyle and treating art as a kind of business as Andy Warhol did later in his life. This is why it is possible to estimate that Pop Art as one of the strongest trends in the contemporary art may be characterized as a celebration of high capitalism and consumption.

Alloway, L. (ed.), Modern Dreams: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Pop Art, New Publishers, New York, 1988.
This book reveals the basic historical stages of the development of Pop Art since its beginning till the 1980s.
Bockris, V. The Life and Death of Andy Warhol, Bantam, New York, 1989.
The author of the book focuses on the life and work of a founder of American Pop Art Andy Warhol
Crone, R. Andy Warhol. Praeger, New York, 1970.
Another book dedicated to the life and work of Andy Warhol that helps better understand his attitude to art and his perception of the role of artist in the contemporary society.
Harrison, C. & P. Wood, Art in Theory 1900-200. New York: Touchstone, 2002.
The authors trace the main trends in the development of art of the 20th century.
Hebdige, D. Visual Culture: Chapter 6: Fabulous Confusion! Pop Before Pop? Routledge Inc., New York, 1995, 96-122.
The book discusses the main trends in Pop Art related to popular artists of the 20th century.
Madoff, S.H. Pop Art: A Critical History. LA: University of California Press, 2003.
The author traces the development of Pop Art in the 20th century.
McShine, K. (ed.) Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1989.
It provides ample possibility to get acquainted with both famous and barely known works of Andy Warhol
David Robbins (ed.), The Independent Group: Postwar Britain and the Aesthetics of Plenty, MIT Press, 1990.
The book provides ample information on British Pop Art and pop artists.
Roeder, G. H. Jr. “What Have Modernists Looked At? Experiential Roots of Twentieth-Century American Painting”. American Quarterly 39 (Spring, 1987): 56-83.
The author focuses on the work of outstanding American pop artists, including Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.
Rosenblum, R. “Andy Warhol: Court Painter to the 70s.” Andy Warhol: Portraits of the 70s. David Whitney, (ed.) Random House, New York, 8-21, 1979.
The author provides interesting information concerning the main works of Andy Warhol.
Sandler, I. The New York School: The Painters and Sculptors of the Fifties, New Publishers, New York. 1978.
The book depicts the development of Pop Art at its beginning
Stangos, N. Concept of Modern Art. London: Thames and Hudson, 2001.
The author focuses on the development of Pop Art in the UK.

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