The Influence of Art History on Modern Design – Pop Art

Today’s post is about one of the most “popular” art movements of the Modern Era: Pop Art. This movement arose from a rebellion against Abstract Expressionists, that was considered by the Pop Art artists as pretentious and over-intense.

Gold Marilyn Monroe (1962) – Andy Warhol

Pop Art is thought to be an art style that returned to the material realities of everyday life, to popular culture (this is where the “pop” term comes from) which derives from most of the visual pleasures of people – like television, magazines or comics.

If you want to read more about the influence of art history on modern designs check out our other posts about: Gothic Style, Baroque Style, Art Nouveau and Cubism.

Drowning Girl (1963) – Roy Lichtenstein

When and where appeared the Pop Art movement?

The Pop Art movement appeared in Britain in the mid 1950s’ and in the United States in the late 1950s’. Pop Art artists wanted to challenge tradition assuming that an artist’s use of the mass-media visual elements of popular culture is considered fine art.

Pop art is about removing the material from its context and isolating the object or combining it with other objects for contemplation. This concept actually refers to the attitudes that led to art.

Viki (1964) – Roy Lichtenstein

It’s widely known that Pop Art coincided with the pop music phenomenon of the 1950s’ and 1960s’ and it was very much associated with the fashionable, swinging image of London. As an example, Peter Blake designed covers for Elvis Presley and the Beatles. Moreover, he starred actresses like Brigitte Bardot in his pictures, in the same way artist Andy Warhol used the image of Marlyn Monroe in the United States.

British Pop Art vs. American Pop Art

American Pop art was known to be anonymous, emblematic and aggressive. On the other hand, English Pop art was more referential and subjective. English Pop artists used to deal with popular culture and technology primarily as themes or metaphors. American Pop artists were more into these ideas. For example, Andy Warhol’s motto was “I think everybody should be a machine” and actually tried to make it artworks that looked like there were made by a machine.

Jackie (1964) – Andy Warhol

In 1952 in London appeared The Independent Group (IG), which was considered the precursor of the pop art movement. At the first meeting of the IG in 1952, the co-founding member, artist and sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi introduced a lecture using a series of collages called Bunk! that he created in his time spent in Paris in the period 1947-1949. This series of collages was composed of “found” objects like comic book characters, advertising, magazine covers and all sort of mass produced graphics that mainly represented the American culture. The first work of art which included the word “pop” was Paolozzi’s collage called I was a Rich Man’s Plaything (1947), where the pop appeared in a cloud of smoke emerging from a revolver.

Bunk! collage series – I was a Rich Man’s Plaything (1947) – Eduardo Paolozzi

The melody hunts my reverie – Roy Lichtenstein

In the United States, pop artists used to reproduce, duplicate, overlay, combine and arrange endless visual details that represented the American culture and society, introducing transformations and acting like commentaries. The most famous American Pop Artist, Andy Warhol had a very special interest in movie stars and this passion of his was represented in his art in 1962 when he started creating portraits of Marilyn Monroe.

Warhol tried to keep his personal fascination with fame from showing too clearly in his art work and preferred to let the meaning at the interpretation of viewers. The Pop movement and the role of the media was summarized by Andy Warhol in this famous quotation: In the future everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes. The magazines, television, newspapers and Hollywood are producing new images everyday, meaning that they are constantly enlarging the popular culture. Everything that surrounds us is just an image ready to be consumed.

Which are the most important characteristics of Pop Art?

Pop Art is characterized by techniques and themes drawn from the popular mass culture like comic books, advertising and mundane cultural objects . This movement is widely interpreted as a reaction to the ideas of abstract expressionism. Pop Art intended to employ images of popular in contrast to elitist culture in art, emphasizing the banal elements of any given culture, usually through the use of irony.

Figures in Landscape (1977) – Roy Lichtenstein

The colors used by the Pop Art artists – the predominant colors being yellow, red and blue – are vivid and, in comparison to other movements, they do not depict the artist’s inner sensation of the world. They actually refer to the popular culture, culture that inspired artist Andy Warhol to experiment with the technique of silkscreen printing, a very popular technique used for mass production.

Famous Pop Art artist, Roy Lichtenstein developed a style that was based on the visual vernacular of mass-communication: the comic strip. The features of this style were: black outlines, bold colors and tones rendered by Benday dots (that was a method of printing tones in comic books from the 50’s and the 60’s).

The features of the Pop Art artworks were: clear lines, sharp paintwork and clear representations of symbols, people and objects found in popular culture. Actually, Pop Art replaced the satirical, destructive and anarchic elements of the Dada movement (a cultural movement which appeared in Zurich during World War I and concentrated its anti-war politics through a rejection of the prevailing standards in art through anti-art cultural works) by having a reverence for mass culture and consumerism.

Just What is it that makes today’s home so different, so appealing? (1956) – Richard Hamilton

Pop Artists liked to satirize objects and they sometimes enlarged those objects to large proportions. In the pop movement food was a common theme, but also household objects as chairs and toilets being realized out of squishy plastic rather than the materials there were usually used. As an example we have the Soft Toilet by Claes Oldenburg.

Which are the main domains where Pop Art emerged?

Cubism in painting

The artist that personified the Pop Art more than any other was Andy Warhol. His painting of Marilyn Monroe are the most famous icons of Pop Art.

Elvis I&II (1963-64) – Andy Warhol

Painter Andy Warhol had an obsession with Hollywood’s fame and glamor. He used photographic silkscreen to create his famous portraits of Mick Jagger, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy. The process he used allowed him to create a large number of prints. Actually, Warhol used a method of mass production to create his art work because he thought that celebrities themselves were mass produced.

Mick Jagger Suite of 10 (1975) – Andy Warhol

Whaam! (1963) – Roy Lichtenstein

Pop Art in packaging designs

Logos and product labeling often figures in the imagery chosen by the pop artists. For example, we have the Campbell’s Soup Cans labels by Andy Warhol. Even more, the labeling on the shipping carton which contained retail items was used as a subject of pop art. As example we have Campbell’s Tomato Juice Box by Warhol or his Brillo Soap Box sculptures.

Campbell’s Soup (1968) – Andy Warhol

Campbell’s Tomato Juice Box (1964) – Andy Warhol

Pop Art in sculpture

In the Pop Art Sculpture, Claes Oldenburg was considered one of the most important representatives of the movement. He created many large scale public works. A famous work of his, in collaboration with Coosje Van Bruggen, is the Spoonbridge and Cherry in Minneapolis.

Spoonbridge and Cherry – Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen

Another prominent figure of the pop movement was Robert Indiana. He called himself a sign painter, he incorporated symbols, signs and letters throughout his art. Indiana created poems, sculptures, paintings, silk screens and posters. His most famous sculpture is called Love and it was conceived in a time when the United States was consumed by the Vietnam War and it was more a symbol of Peace as well as one of the most celebrated works within the pop art movement around the world.

Love – Robert Indiana

Are contemporary design works still influenced by Pop Art?

Jeff Jaffe, the co-owner of Pop International Galleries in New York states that “Pop Art is stronger than ever”. Collectors, art dealers, publishers and auction houses of course agree with him. All of them point to some of the greatest names in art today: Clemens Briels, James Rizzi, Romero Britto, Steve Kaufman among others. All of these artists work in a Pop style and they have all found success in today’s art marketplace.

Needless to say, art has always been an expression of what takes place in society. In the 50’s in England, and in the 60’s in the United States, art was rather a chaos of chaos of consumption, advertising, television, comics and fashion. Art reinvented itself more than ever before because of the pop art movement, which is still highly appreciated by people today.

Today, Pop Art is still very popular, whether we’re talking about old originals selling for thousands of pounds or copies of those which are selling in large numbers for a small price. It’s clear that pop art has became more than just a statement and it’s impossible to ignore, it’s absolutely everywhere you go, in everyday life places, used for advertising (that is what it was initially used for in the 50’s).

Pop Art can mean a lot of things, but one of those things is clearly “popular”. All art appeals to people on an emotional level, but Pop Art is experienced on an experiential level it comes from our daily lives, said Julie Maner, director of business affairs for Museum Editions in New Rochelle, N.Y. By this she refers to the “Pop Dog” series, created by Gloria Lee. This series features 25 different dog breeds in some electric Pop colors. Of course this print in particular is put by dealers in the window of their shops because they are colorful and whimsical.

Pop Art is so popular today that it’s used for creating awesome birthday cards, t-shirts, badges, calendars, posters, canvases – so it’s really hard to ignore. The features of this art like the bright colors and the prints haven’t yet faded and I seriously doubt that they’ll ever will, as the popular movement still continues to fascinate today.

Some people asked why did the Pop Art returned so strongly, even at 47 years after it appeared? The answer given by some was that Pop gained a lot of supporters over the years and it proven to be a solid investment.  Others said that it’s just the time to swing back that way, as fashion returns to some of the early years. Moreover, it’s thought that it came back as a need of the American’s to be comforted by familiar things.

Art in the Pop genre is constantly changing, it’s a way of keeping up with the times, said Julie Maner. “What I think is great about Pop art is that it’s cross cultural. It’s not making a political statement. It’s the best art form for anyone who might be intimidated by art.” states Ruth-Ann of Thorn of Crown Thorn Publishing. Anti-war protests, war itself, threats of foreign attacks and fear of nuclear bombs are as real today as they were in the 50s’.

Pop Art influence in contemporary artworks.

Artists still use today most of the features of the pop art style as inspiration for their artworks. Andy Warhol’s and Roy Lichtenstein’s works are the most often used as models for their contemporary works. You will see that today’s artists are creating cool illustrations, prints and posters with details like: dotted image, strong and multiple colors, series of images on one print, famous people faces and home utilities like tv, radio, cameras.

Pop Art influence in home decorations, accessories prints and fashion.

Pop Art artwork, because of it’s bundle of colors represents a great inspirations for designers, whether we’re talking about product prints, posters, canvases, t-shirts or many other things. Check out some everyday products with awesome pop art inspired prints:

Pop Art
I love the examples you chose. Specially the Vespa!
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