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Pop Art Movement Essay

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The word Pop Art is an abbreviation for Popular Art. The name says it all. The Pop Art movement wanted to bring art back into the daily life of people. It was a reaction against abstract painting, which pop artists considered as too sophisticated and elite.

Pop Art emerged in the mid 1950s in England, but realized its fullest potential in New York in the ’60s where it shared, with Minimalism, the attentions of the art world. In Pop Art, the epic was replaced with the everyday and the mass-produced awarded the same significance as the unique; the gulf between “high art” and “low art” was eroding away.

The media and advertising were favorite subjects for Pop Art’s often-witty celebrations of consumer society. They admired the singular artworks of Pablo Picasso’s Plate with Wafers and Stuart Davis’ Lucky Strike. They also appreciated the work of Marcel Duchamp whose ready-mades, as he called them, added a new sense of completion for the Pop artists.

Marcel Duchamp was dismayed that the Pop artists appreciated his work. He stated, “I threw the bottle rack and the urinal into their faces as a challenge and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty” (Wikipedia, 2006).

Pop Art had an unusual kind of history for a modern art movement; it existed in the United States, England, California, and even in Canada. For the first few years of its existence, and especially in New York, Pop Art went relatively unnoticed. Eventual, recognition of Pop Art began in the early 1950’s and slowly developed over the next few years. Pop Art developed mostly because artists began to re-direct their attention to the possibilities of change.

The term “Pop Art” was first used by the English critic Lawrence Alloway in a 1958 issue of Architectural Digest to describe those paintings that celebrate post-war consumerism, defy the psychology of Abstract Expressionism, and worship the god of materialism (Pioch, 2002). It was also related closely to Dada, an earlier movement (largely French) that poked fun at the highbrow and serious nature of the art world and also used everyday objects and mundane subjects. Warhol’s rows of Campbell’s tins of tomato soup are equivalent to Marcel Duchamp’s bicycles and urinals placed in galleries.

The artists began to associate more often with one another in the 1960’s. In 1961, the Pop artists showed their work at the Young Contemporaries Exhibition. The list of artists included David Hockney, Peter Phillips, and Derek Boshier. On the New York side of Pop Art, such artists as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Tom Wesselmann, began exploring their own aesthetic program.

Throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, these artists created work that was deeply rooted in culture, both in the United States and Europe. By 1965, when Pop artists showed their work at the Milwaukee art center, Pop Art had become well defined and regarded. It marked a return to sharp paintwork and representational art. It was an appreciation of theretofore-unappreciated objects and images of mass culture and ordinary commerce. The most famous of the Pop artists, the cult figure Andy Warhol, recreated quasi-photographic paintings of people or everyday objects.


Wikipedia. Fountain (Duchamp). 27 November 2006.Wikipedia. December 10, 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountain_(Duchamp)

Pioch, Nicolas. Pop Art. 14 October 2002. WebMuseum. December 10, 2006.


Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol was born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928, in Pittsburgh. He received his B.F.A. from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, in 1949. That same year, he moved to New York, where he soon became successful as a commercial artist and illustrator. During the 1950s, Warhol’s drawings were published in Glamour and other magazines and displayed in department stores. He became known for his illustrations of I. Miller shoes. In 1952, the Hugo Gallery in New York presented a show of Warhol’s illustrations for Truman Capote’s writings. He traveled in Europe and Asia in 1956.

In 1952 Andy Warhol had his first one-man show exhibition at the Hugo Gallery in New York. In 1956 he had an important group exhibition at the renowned Museum of Modern Art.

In the sixties Warhol started painting daily objects of mass production like Campbell Soup cans and Coke bottles. Soon he became a famous figure in the New York art scene. From 1962 on he started making silkscreen prints of famous personalities like Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor.

In addition to painting, Warhol made several 16mm films, which have become underground classics such as Chelsea Girls, Empire and Blow Job (Andy Warhol Foundation, 2002). In 1968, Valerie Solanis, founder and sole member of SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) walked into Warhol’s studio, known as the Factory, and shot the artist. The attack was nearly fatal.

After this assassination attempt the pop artist made a radical turn in his process of producing art. The philosopher of art mass production now spent most of his time making individual portraits of the rich and affluent of his time like Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson or Brigitte Bardot. Warhol’s activities became more and more entrepreneurial. He started the magazine Interview and even a nightclub. In 1974 the Factory was moved to 860 Broadway. In 1975 Warhol published THE philosophy of Andy Warhol. In this book he describes what art is: “Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art” (Wikipedia, 2006).

The artist began the 1980s with the publication of POPism: The Warhol ’60s and with exhibitions of Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century and the Retrospectives and Reversal series. He also created two cable television shows, “Andy Warhol’s TV” in 1982 and “Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes” for MTV in 1986. His paintings from the 1980s include The Last Suppers, Rorschachs and, in a return to his first great theme of Pop, a series called Ads. Warhol also engaged in a series of collaborations with younger artists, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente and Keith Haring.

Following routine gall bladder surgery, Andy Warhol died February 22, 1987. After his burial in Pittsburgh, his friends and associates organized a memorial mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York that was attended by more than 2,000 people.

Two years later, in May 1994 the Andy Warhol Museum opened in his hometown Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.


Andy Warhol Foundation. 2002.Andy Warhol: Biography. December 10, 2006.


Wikipedia. Andy Warhol. 10 December 2006. Wikipedia. December 10, 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Warhol

Bauhaus School

The Bauhaus School is a school of design founded in Weimar, Germany in 1919 by Walter Gropius. Its signature modernist style, integrating Expressionist art with the fields of architecture and design, was enormously influential throughout the world.

The foundation of the Bauhaus occurred at a time of crisis and turmoil in Europe as a whole and particularly in Germany. Its establishment resulted from a confluence of a diverse set of political, social, educational and artistic shifts in the first two decades of the twentieth century.

After the Bauhaus moved to Dessau, a school of industrial design with teachers and staff less antagonistic to the conservative political regime remained in Weimar. This school was eventually known as the Technical University of Architecture and Civil Engineering and in 1996 changed its name to Bauhaus University Weimar.

In 1927, the Bauhaus style and its most famous architects heavily influenced the exhibition “Die Wohnung” (“The Dwelling”) organized by the Deutscher Werkbund in Stuttgart. A major component of that exhibition was the Weissenhof Siedlung, a settlement or housing project. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe succeeded by Hannes Meyer, and then in turn Gropius.

The Bauhaus art school existed in four different cities (Weimar from 1919 to 1925, Dessau from 1925 to 1932, Berlin from 1932 to 1933) and Chicago from 1937-1938, under four different architect-directors (Walter Gropius from 1919 to 1928, Hannes Meyer from 1928 to 1930, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe from 1930 to 1933 and László Moholy-Nagy from 1937-1938) (Wikipedia, 2006. When the school moved from Weimar to Dessau, for instance, although it had been an important revenue source, the pottery shop was discontinued. When Mies took over the school in 1930, he transformed it into a private school, and would not allow any supporters of Hannes Meyer to attend it.

Under increasing political pressure the Bauhaus was closed on the orders of the Nazi regime on April 11 1933. The Nazi Party and other fascist political groups had opposed the Bauhaus throughout the 1920s. They considered it a front for communists, especially because many Russian artists were involved with it. Consequently, many Weissenhof architects fled to the Soviet Union, thus strengthening the effect. Nazi writers such as Wilhelm Frick and Alfred Rosenberg called the Bauhaus “un-German,” and criticized its modernist styles.

            One of the main objectives of the Bauhaus was to unify art, craft, and technology (National Arts Centre, 2006). The machine was considered a positive element, and therefore industrial and product design were important components. Vorkurs (“initial course”) was taught; this is the modern day Basic Design course that has become one of the key foundational courses offered in architectural schools across the globe. There was no teaching of history in the school because everything was supposed to be designed and created according to first principles rather than by following precedent.

One of the most important contributions of the Bauhaus is in the field of modern furniture design. The world famous and ubiquitous Cantilever chair by Dutch designer Mart Stam, using the tensile properties of steel, and the Wassily Chair designed by Marcel Breuer are two examples.


Wikipedia. Bauhaus. 8 December 2006. Wikipedia. December 10, 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bauhaus

National Arts Centre. 2006. Eras and ‘Isms’: Bauhaus. December 10, 2006. http://www.artsalive.ca/en/dan/dance101/glossary.asp

Lyonel Feininger

Lyonel Feininger was born in New York City to German immigrant parents. He left for Europe in 1887 to study at the Königliche Akademie Berlin under Ernst Hancke and art schools in Berlin with Karl Schlabitz and in Paris with sculptor Filippo Colarossi (Did you mean, 2006). He quickly established a reputation as one of the foremost political cartoonists in Germany before being offered a contract to produce caricatures for the Chicago Sunday Tribune, for which he created one of his most famous strips in 1906, ‘The Kin-der-Kids’. He is also working as a caricaturist for several magazines including Harper’s Round Table, Harper’s Young People, Humoristische Blätter, Lustige Blätter, Das Narrenschiff, Berliner Tageblatt and Ulk. Feininger married Clara Fürst, daughter of the painter Gustav Fürst and they had two daughters. Later he had also several children together with Julia Berg and they later married.

In 1907 Feininger dedicated himself to painting. On a visit to Paris he came into contact with Cubism and, with the support of Robert Delaunay, he began to develop a distinctive style of painting. He became a member of the Section door in 1912 and exhibited with the Blue Rider group the following year. He remained in Germany throughout the First World War and in 1919 he was appointed “master” at the Bauhaus in Weimar where he taught until its closure by the Nazis in 1933. During this period he developed his woodcutting techniques. The Nazi exhibition of Degenerate Art, however, persuaded him to return to the United States in 1937, and he remained in New York for the rest of his life.

Famous for his Cubist paintings, Feininger was an essential member of the Bauhaus school. Most recognizable for his Cubist architectural scenes, Feininger’s range of art stretches to woodcuts, cartoons, drawings, pen and ink, and watercolor, depicting subjects ranging from people to still life to sketches of landscape vistas. He made use of rhythmic interpretations of natural forms, studied the effects of transparency and prismatic planes, and used light to reconstruct elements from the real world (Art Industri, 2006).

Feininger strove to “transform in the mind and crystallize what one sees.” Reality in his work does not rely strictly upon the representation of observed impressions but in the appropriation and transformation of perceptions into spatial and plastic, multidimensional pictorial structures. Feininger’s work is built up of layers of prismatic and crystalline forms, one above the other. Only their mutual interpretation produces the object, and it leads into the depth of the pictorial space rather than to its surface. Aside from the use of pictorial space for purely architectural depiction, the fundamental innovation in his work is the creation of formal volume through the overlapping of color planes.

Spatial depth and volume, intrinsic to Feininger’s work, changed with his development as an artist. In his first paintings, compositions deal with earthbound energies trying to disengage them. Conflict between the aspiring verticals and the gravitating horizontals result in diagonal forms, exuding a dynamic ascent. As the war ended, the tension, which had held him since 1910, began to relax. His great seriousness gave way to a more serene and lyrical mood, softer and finer. In the pictures he created in the second half of the 1920s, Feininger achieved ever-greater calm and clarity of form.


Did you mean. 2006. Lyonel Feininger. December 10, 2006.


Art Industri. 2006. Lyonel Feininger. December 10, 2006. http://articons.co.uk/feininger.htm

The New York School

The New York design avant-garde did not think in pure painterly terms, but drew their inspiration from protean notions of need and function; in this respect, they echoed not only European trends as represented by De Stijl and El Lissitzky, but also elegant Modernists of an earlier era, like Raymond Loewy and Norman Bel Geddes (Art and Culture, 2006).

In the hands of designers such as Herb Lubalin, the quantum kernels of design — letter forms themselves — became objects of meaning. Just as phototypography appeared, liberating designers from metal type, Lubalin appeared in the late ‘50s with his own creative misuse of the new technology. He became known as a type basher, an experimenter who imbued individual characters with meanings of their own. In the process, Herb Lubalin’s name became synonymous with innovative advertising, as well as iconoclastic package design and editorial content.

The music business is often credited for the cultural foment of the 1960s, but the advertising world had planned pop cultural upheaval nearly a decade before. Leading the creative revolution on Madison Avenue was the agency Doyle Dane Bernbach, whose copywriters were the first to use cynicism and irony in the formulation of a new “anti-advertising,” which stimulated sales. The agency’s enormously successful campaign for the Volkswagen Beetle lampooned the auto manufacturer’s static designs, the innate homeliness of the car, and the disingenuous marketing of Detroit-made cars. The ads made consumers feel as though they were in collusion with the advertiser, fellow skeptics who were in on the same joke. The rise of anti-establishment ad agencies such as DDB is chronicled in Thomas Frank’s “The Conquest of Cool,” which chronicles the rebel talents in marketing that jump-started American consumerism at the dawn of the ‘60s.


Art and Culture. 2006. New York School Design. December 10, 2006. http://www.artandculture.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/ACLive.woa/wa/movement?id=357

Paul Rand

Paul Rand (born Peretz Rosenbaum, August 15, 1914-November 26, 1996) was a well-known American graphic designer, best known for his corporate logo designs. Rand’s education included the Pratt Institute (1929-1932), the Parsons School of Design (1932-1933), and the Art Students League (1933-1934). He was one of the originators of the Swiss Style of graphic design (Area of Design).

            Paul had completed his first career as a designer of media promotion at Esquire-Coronet – and as an outstanding cover designer for Apparel Arts and Directions. Paul Rand’s book, Thoughts on Design, with reproductions of almost one hundred of his designs and some of the best words yet written on graphic design, had been published four years earlier – a publishing event that cemented his international reputation and identified him as a designer of influence from Zurich to Tokyo.

Paul Rand’s first career in media promotion and cover design ran from 1937 to 1941, his second career in advertising design ran from 1941 to 1954, and his third career in corporate identification began in 1954. Paralleling these three careers there has been a consuming interest in design education and Paul Rand’s fourth career as an educator started at Cooper Union in 1942. He taught at Pratt Institute in 1946 and in 1956 he accepted a post at Yale University’s graduate school of design where he held the title of Professor of Graphic Design.

In 1937, Paul launched his first career at Esquire. Although he was only occasionally involved in the editorial layout of that magazine, he designed material on its behalf and turned out a spectacular series of covers for Apparel Arts, a quarterly published in conjunction with Esquire.

Paul spent fourteen years in advertising where he demonstrated the importance of the art director in advertising and helped break the isolation that once surrounded the art department. The final thought of his Thoughts on Design is worth repeating: “Even if it is true that commonplace advertising and exhibitions of bad taste are indicative of the mental capacity of the man in the street, the opposing argument is equally valid. Bromidic advertising catering to that bad taste merely perpetuates that mediocrity and denies him one of the most easily accessible means of aesthetic development”.

In 1954, the Museum of Modern Art cited him as one of the ten best art directors. This was the same year in which he received the gold medal from the Art Directors Club for his Morse Code advertisement addressed to David Sarnoff of RCA.

By the time that Paul started working out of his Weston studio he was well known as a designer of trademarks. He had completed designs for several companies including Esquire, Coronet Brandy, and Robeson Cutlery. By 1955, the fates that continued to play a fortuitous role in channeling the Rand talent toward critical areas of design began to set the stage for his third major design career – corporate identity. Thomas J. Watson, Jr., had come recently to the presidency of the International Business Machines Corporation, and his search for a graphic designer to create the corporate image led to Paul Rand. The rest is design history.

Towards the end of his life, Rand taught at several colleges and universities. He published children’s books with his wife, Ann Rand, which is notable for their clear and youthful style. They lived for many years in Weston, Connecticut; in a home of Paul’s own design. Paul Rand died in 1996.


Area of Design. 2006. American Icon: Paul Rand. December 10, 2006. http://www.areaofdesign.com/americanicons/rand.htm

Coyne & Blanchard.2006.Pioneers: Paul Rand. December 10, 2006.


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