Art Movements Throughout History: British Pop Art

A British flag portrayed in a pop-art style.


Pop Art appeared in the United Kingdom during the mid 1950s and was somewhat of a 'challenge' to traditional, or fine art due to its use of mass produced images from popular culture. Many artists will argue that British Pop Art was an ironic statement against consumerism, materialism, and the influx of American culture and advertising. British Pop Art is distinctly different from American Pop Art, as British artists were viewing and critiquing an Americanized advertising culture from afar, and not living in it like their American counterparts were. Pop Art is considered to be one of the earliest examples of Postmodernism.

Major Contributors

An artist collective known as The Independent Group laid the foundation for British Pop Art when they formed in 1952. This collective of sculptors, architects, writers, painters, among others, would have long discussions relating to mass produced images such as advertising, comic books, movies, and the technology in which this mass production of images was possible. In 1952, Eduardo Paolozzi made a presentation to The Independent Group composed of various images depicting American consumer culture. This presentation was called Bunk!, due to the use of onomatopoeia within the works he was presenting such as the word Pop appearing as to mimic the sound of a gunshot. Paolozzi is considered one of the original Pop Art founders and artists. After many of this group had produced or procured art that symbolized this 'new' consumerism centered culture, Lawrence Alloway, also part of The Independent Group, finally described the term to the mainstream in his 1958 essay, The Arts and the Mass Media. The term Pop Art had been used previously, but Alloway is credited with popularizing it.

Richard Hamilton, another member of The Independent Group, along with Paolozzi started exploring the use of screen printing as an artistic medium in the 1960s, which was previously only used commercially. The ability to create imagery on a large scale, as advertisers were doing, symbolized the mass produced, non traditional aspects that Pop Art was reflecting. This method of artistic creation and production can also be observed as a postmodern critique of fine art, which is art that limited numbers of works produced in order to sustain a value or rarity.

Defining Works

British Pop Art is famous for many different pieces, there is no defining piece of work that can symbolize the entire British movement. British artists worked with acts such as The Beatles and inspired many record album covers from the 1960s as well as influencing modern album covers today. Many pieces of British Pop Art will appear initially as an advertisement, poster, album, or magazine cover until looking closer to find some sort of irony or parody within the image.

Pop Art made its way across the Atlantic to The United States of America in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and many pop artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein were influenced heavily by British Pop Art. American artists also found more fame and recognition as their British counterparts. Other founders of British Pop Art and influential British Pop Artists are Peter Blake, David Hockney, Allen Jones, Joe Tilson, Derek Boshier, Richard Smith and R.B Kitaj respectively.


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