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What is Pop Art?

Pop art is an art movement that began in the early 1950's, most prominently in London, England.

Though there had been art work that was reminiscent of pop art or proto-pop art previously, the movement is considered to have truly arisen from a collaborative fellowship of artists in London called the Independent Group. Some of the most important artists to have founded the early pop art movement are Eduardo Paolozzi and Richard Hamilton, who were members of the Independent Group from 1952 to its closing in 1955. These early artists organized exhibitions in Britain that displayed some of the first true examples of modern pop art, and their work would later on influence the direction of the movement heavily, eventually producing a similar pop art movement in the United States later on in the 1960's.


Once the movement has spread to the United States, artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein would contribute to this “found art” movement, producing works that were often wholly derived from existing works, or which were painted representations of photographs depicted elements of mass media. Andy Warhol is particular would become an extremely prolific pop artist, producing silk screen paintings of celebrities and creating parodies of many common advertisements. The American style of pop art tended to have a flare for the dramatic, while the British style was more humorous and subtle, because Americans tended to be bombarded by mass media and commercialism much more prominently, and so art that derived from this media needed to be that much more exaggerated to have an effect.


The pop art movement was important because it represented a shift in what artists considered to be important source material. Where as in the past, artists tended to draw inspiration from the sublime—from nature and religion—pop art involved drawing inspiration from the mundane aspects of everyday life, from TV, movies, and repetitive commercials. It was a movement which sought to connect fine art with the masses and involved using imagery that ordinary people could recognize and relate to. Warhol's soup cans are a prominent example of this focus on the mundane and everyday, and in fact Warhol himself claimed that he painted them because Campbell's soup is what he usually would have for lunch.


One of the main characteristics that distinguishes pop art from other art movements is this focus on derived work. Most pop art works, instead of deriving from the artist's interpretation of some aspect of reality, derives from the artist's interpretation of art that already exists. Many of Warhol's paintings for example were nearly exact replicas of existing advertisements, and some were silk screen printings of photographs that had been taken by others. Roy Lichtenstein's work consisted almost entirely of slightly-altered copies of the original artwork of others, from his comic book panels to his re-interpretations of famous works of fine art.


The pop art movement remains popular even in modern times, and Andy Warhol's silk screen paintings are some of the most valuable in the world.

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