The Legacy and History of Pop Art

In the early days of the 20th century, a new form of art emerged that would come to be known as Pop Art. This movement was a rebellion against traditional art forms and their elitist associations. Some of the key characteristics and elements of pop art were a celebration of art forms accessible to all. However, that’s not all.

what is the difference between american and british pop art

Instead, Pop artists celebrated popular culture and everyday objects, using bright colors and bold graphics to create eye-catching works that were accessible to everyone. In this article, we will explore the history and techniques of Pop Art, as well as some of its most famous practitioners. Pop Art is a movement that emerged in the mid-20th century in reaction to the blandness of Abstract Expressionism. 

Pop artists sought to use art to reflect the world around them and to celebrate popular culture. While some Pop artists, like Andy Warhol, became celebrities in their own right, others, focused on expressing their disdain for the world of mass media and consumer culture. Here are some key facts you need to know about Pop Art.

English Origins, American Culture

What is the difference between American and British pop art? While they had their cultural differences, they shared the same vision and desire to popularize art and make it accessible to all.

After World War II, many artists in Britain were exploring the idea of popular culture as an alternative to the elitist world of high art. This intellectual movement was known as Pop Art, a term coined by British critic Lawrence Alloway in 1955. 

The first wave of Pop Art in Britain was led by artists like Richard Hamilton and Peter Blake, who were influenced by American popular culture, particularly the work of commercial artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. 

Andy Warhol was particularly known for his fascination with celebrity culture and the world of consumerism. Warhol’s work often featured images of famous people like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, as well as everyday objects like soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles. 

Roy Lichtenstein drew inspiration from commercial culture, specifically the comic books that were so popular in America during the 1950s and 60s. Lichtenstein would enlarge and recreate these images in a highly stylized manner, using Ben-Day dots to give them their edgy, recognizable appearance.

What Kind of Artwork Uses Everyday Objects as The Subject?

One of the defining characteristics of Pop Art is its use of everyday objects and imagery from popular culture. This often includes references to commercial products, celebrities, and mass-media images. 

While the American Pop artists of the 1960s were largely influenced by commercial culture, there was also a group of artists working in New York who were interested in exploring more personal and psychological themes. These artists, known as the Neo-Dadaists, included Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. They often used found objects in their work, incorporating everyday items into compositions that commented on the human condition. 

The Factory

Andy Wahrol once famously said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” True to form and the content that inspired him, Warhol’s studio in Manhattan was aptly named The Factory. Edie Sedgwick and other ‘Warhol superstars’ were part of the new art scene which helped set art free and allowed it to live a life beyond the confines of a gallery. However, the decadent lifestyle took the lives of many artists, musicians, performers and writers who frequented the Factory, somewhat proving Warhol’s 15-minute fame theory.

A Global Phenomenon

The American Pop artists of the 1960s were not the only ones interested in exploring the world of popular culture, especially in the aftermath of WW2 and amid great social turmoil. The effect was an immense influence on a generation of artists working in different media.

Throwaway Culture

One of the most controversial aspects of Pop Art is its embrace of what some people consider to be “low culture.” Pop artists often used images from popular culture, including comic books, advertising, and magazines, in their work. Some critics accused them of pandering to the masses and of contributing to a culture of superficiality and consumerism. Others saw Pop Art as a way of subverting the dominant culture and of celebrating the everyday objects and images that were so often overlooked.


While some Pop artists were interested in exploring the world of commercial culture, others were more interested in using their work to critique consumerism and capitalism. As firm believers that art should be used to challenge the status quo, they often created works that were designed to provoke a reaction.

America’s Sweetheart and Other Tragic Muses

One of the most popular and iconic images of the 20th century is Andy Warhol’s 1967 painting of Marilyn Monroe. This work, which is based on a publicity photo from the 1953 film Niagara, captures Monroe in all her glamor and tragedy. Monroe was one of Warhol’s favorite subjects, and he would often use multiple images of her in his work. Warhol also had a fascination with death, and many of his images of Monroe are tinged with a sense of foreboding. In 1962, he created a series of paintings based on news photographs of car accidents, which were both shocking and beautiful in their depiction of violence. Liz Taylor was another of Warhol’s famous subjects.

Top of the Pops

While the American Pop artists of the 1960s were the first to really explore the world of popular culture in their work, they were not the last. In the decades since, many artists have continued to mine the world of pop culture for material. Some artists are pretty successful in creating works that play off of popular icons and images. Others have chosen to use their work to critique the world of mass media and consumer culture.

The Legacy of Pop Art

What effect did Pop Art have on American culture? The legacy of Pop Art can be seen in the work of many contemporary artists but also popular culture on the whole. In the globalized world we live in, the influence is even more meaningful. It has also had a significant impact on the world of commercial design and on the way we think about popular culture. Whether you love or hate it, there’s no denying that Pop Art has left a lasting mark on the art world.