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Pop Art paintings were first created in Britain in the mid 1950s and in the US in the late 1950s. The style is characterised by its use of imagery from pop culture and mass media, appearing to celebrate everyday life. By incorporating banal commodities into the realm of art, artists drastically blurred the distinction between low and high culture.
In the wake of the second world war, the USA experienced an economic boom and consumerism accelerated. Pop Art painters responded by including everyday objects and consumerist products into their paintings.
However, a debate remains over whether Pop Art accepted the modern age in all its commercial glory or whether it was attempting to withdraw from it completely.
Some see Pop Art paintings as a response to Abstract Expressionism, which transformed the art market through the emergence of the artist as celebrity. In comparison, Pop Art is seemingly devoid of emotional expression and instead elevates commercial objects into the realm of high art. Linking the commercial world with the art world could be seen as a critique over the increasingly celebrity and money focused art world.
Many pop art painters and other artists rejected the practice of fine art from an early age or began their careers within commercial art, where they learnt the visual language of mass culture.
Richard Hamilton is a key artist in the development of British Pop Art with his collage Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? (1956) often regarded as the first piece of Pop Art. He believed in an artistic hierarchy whereby all art forms are equal, stating that ‘TV is neither less nor more legitimate an influence than, for example, is New York Abstract Expressionism'.
Andy Warhol was a pioneer of American Pop Art and is well known for his images of commercial goods, such as his Campbell's Soup Cans (1961-1962). His focus on repetition eludes to the mechanisation of art and the influence of consumerism.
Zoe Moss is a photorealist artist who paints scenarios and objects from real life. Her Pop Art painting style blends pop culture references with a playful critique of modern-day life. In Captain America (2016), Moss wittily juxtaposes the iconic Marvel character with the familiar domestic item of the Tesco carrier bag.
Find out more in our Guide to Pop Art.