More Than Andy Warhol: 10 Pop Artists Of The '60s

Culture | August 6, 2019

Left: detail of 'Buffalo II' by Robert Rauschenberg, 1964. Right: 'Smoker, 1 (Mouth, 12)' by Tom Wesselmann, 1967.

We've all seen Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans and Roy Lichtenstein's comic-book canvases -- the "Pop Art" movement that popped in the 1960s is practically defined by these images. But the genre is about more than these two -- dozens of artists achieved success creating memorable works we categorize as Pop Art.

And what is Pop Art, anyway? Well, it's probably the most diverse art movement of all time, as the crazy range of styles here display. One big idea in Pop Art is treating illustrations or commercial design as high art. That's the soup-can, comic-book kind of Pop -- the idea that a product made for mass consumption is as valid a subject for art as a landscape in the French countryside. Pop Art also directly lifts images from mass culture, pulling newspaper photos or movie stills into silkscreen prints or collages. 

The Pop Art movement emerged in the 1950s, according to some, in reaction to abstract expressionism (think Jackson Pollock). It challenged traditional fine art by incorporating elements in mass culture and found items as well. Several artists emerged as part of the movement.

Richard Hamilton: Early Innovator

Richard Hamilton, 'Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?' Source: standard.co.uk

Although he is less known than Andy Warhol, British artist Richard Hamilton is one of the founders of the Pop Art movement. Born in London in 1922, Hamilton worked as an apprentice at a company that produced electrical equipment and then entered the Royal Academy to study art, but was kicked out because he was a poor student. After serving in he military, he went on to study at the Slade School of Fine Art. 

Hamilton's best known piece, the collage "Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?," dates from 1956 and is the first famous work of Pop Art.

His philosophy considered the artist as a contributor to consumer culture and also addressed the role of the new technologies in people’s lives: they were frenetic and must have seemed very strange to the first generations using them. He thought that Pop Art would be "Popular, transient, expendable, low-cost, mass-produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, and Big Business." His art helped to bridge the gap between high art and the consumer culture. His influence can be seen in the works of every pop artist who came after him.

Roy Lichtenstein: The Comic Book Panel As Art

Roy Lichtenstein's 'Frightened Girl,' 1964. Source: (TheArtNewspaper.com)

A lover of jazz, a piano and clarinet player, and, of course, an artist, Roy Lichtenstein studied at Ohio State University, where he developed his questioning of accepted canons and aesthetics, since individuals have different senses of what is artistic. He was drafted and went to fight in Europe. He intended to study at the Sorbonne, but returned home when he found out his father was ill, and finished his degree at Ohio State. In the ‘40s and ‘50s, his iconography came from printed images, and he created cubist re-imaginings of cowboys and Indians. He tended to gravitate towards what may have been considered the worst visual items he could find and then worked to improve them. In 1957, SUNY Oswego hired him to teach industrial design. This led him to a job teaching at Douglass College, the women’s college of Rutgers University in 1960. While at Douglass, he returned to an earlier idea, painting cartoon characters with abstract backgrounds. He added one of his signature techniques: the use of Benday dots, which are used in commercial engraving (and yes, comic books) to create gradations of color and texture.

Lichtenstein's most famous paintings celebrate the efficient art and narrative of ten-cent comic books.

Eventually, he left his job and focused on his art. He ventured into printmaking and returned to sculpture. His artwork became more abstract, as he created works that made brushstrokes the subject of the painting. In the ‘70s he returned to a subject that had fascinated him: perception, focusing on the way that people accept what they see as real because they do not analyze the images. He also explored other movements, such as cubism, and began working as a muralist. His final work with an art movement was his series Chinese Landscapes, which simulated the elements in Song Dynasty paintings, using graduated dots.

Jasper Johns: Symbols As Structure

Jasper Johns, 'Three Flags,' 1958. Source: kcrw.org

Driven by a philosophy that the process was the art, his art moved away from expressionism to a form known as the concrete. Born in Augusta, Georgia and raised in Adelaide, South Carolina, he knew he wanted to be an artist from an early age. After a brief period studying at USC, he moved to New York in the early 1950s, where he met artists who inspired him even more. His early work consisted of paintings of flags and maps. 

Jasper Johns worked with everyday, all-too-familiar symbols -- a flag, a map, numbers, the alphabet, a bullseye.

Though Johns used symbols, whether they meant anything is another matter -- in a way, the familiar shapes were simply convenient containers or structures for brushwork that could be abstract. At 28, he had his own show and some of his works were sold to the Museum of Modern Art. He transitioned to printmaking, He also worked on sculptures and collaborated with artists such as Andy Warhol and produced artwork for books. His work once again changed and he produced autobiographical works, which was a movement away from earlier works which were not painted with emotion.

Robert Rauschenberg: Collages Of Collages

'Buffalo II' by Robert Rauschenberg, 1964. Source: Christies

Before Robert Rauschenberg became a painter, he studied pharmacology at the University of Texas, Austin and then worked as a neuropsychiatric technician in the Navy Hospital Corps in San Diego after being drafted by the Navy. He enrolled at the Kansas City Art Institute and eventually studied under Josef Albers at Black Mountain College. He worked on collages, hanging assemblages and small boxes of found objects from 1952 to 1953 and upon going to New York in 1953, he began his Red Painting series which included found objects and evolved into his Combine series.

Rauschenberg's work mixes found items with recycled imagery, such as enlarged, colorized newspaper photos.

The Combine series incorporated elements of painting and sculpture, often putting common objects such as a stuffed eagle or a sign or a pillow into the artwork. Combines could be freestanding or hanging. He spent much of the 1960s working on collaborative projects that incorporated set design, performance, print-making and even choreography. In the ‘70s, he created silkscreen prints, and artwork using newspapers and cardboard boxes.

Tom Wesselmann: The Body As Commodity

Tom Wesselmann, 'Great American Nude, No. 99,; 1968. Source: (buypopart.com)

Tom Wesselmann started out as a cartoonist for men’s magazines. He was known for his nudes, which reduced women to their erogenous zones. He used vibrant colors and his artwork lacked subtlety. Wesselmann did not like to be called a Pop Artist because, he said, his art was not a cultural comment. 

Wesselmann's work was probably the most erotic of the Pop artists and connected consumerism and voyeurism. 

Wesselmann's nude figures or body parts exist amid a jumble of products or household items, suggesting the human body is just one more thing to be consumed.

Claes Oldenburg: Giant Ordinary Things

Left: 'Free Stamp,' outside Cleveland City Hall. Right: 'Typewriter Eraser, Scale X' at the Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL. Sources: Artcyclopedia; norton.org

Swedish/American artist Claes Oldenburg graduated from Yale University in 1951 and went on to study at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1952-1954. He did draw and paint, but is best known as a sculptor. 

Oldenburg created huge whimsical sculptures of common objects, such as scissors, lipstick, and a typewriter eraser. 

 He became interested in environmental art and created a show in a mock store that was filled with plaster objects. From the 1970s on, he worked mainly on commissions and contributed to architectural projects.

James Rosenquist: Surreal Billboards

James Rosenquist, 'F-111' (detail), 1965. Source: PBS.org

James Rosenquist studied art as a teenager and went on to study it at the University of Minnesota from 1952 to 1954. He painted billboards during the summers, a job he would return to in New York City from 1957 to 1960. He rented a small studio and by 1962, had his first solo exhibition. Rosenquist has not only produced paintings but also prints, collages, and drawings. 

Rosenquist's training as a billboard painter is reflected in his giant, surreal canvases that combine news, history, and products.

He became noted for the size of his work, including the room scale painting, F-111. This work, at 86 feet long, is a modern-day history painting, and his work Time Dust is thought to be the largest print in the world, measuring seven by thirty-five feet. He was inspired by current events throughout his career and incorporated advertising imagery in his work.

Peter Max: Pop's Commercial Illustrator

Peter Max, Discovery, 1992. Source: (artbrokerage.com)

Born in Germany, Peter Max moved around with his family quite a bit before ending up in Bensonhurst in Brooklyn, NY. He began his formal art training at the Art Students League of New York and continued his schooling at the School of Visual Arts in New York, New York. In 1962, he and Tom Daly opened a small studio. He, Daly, and Don Rubbo created advertising images. 

Unlike most Pop Artists, Peter Max is also a professional illustrator, actively creating the type of commercial imagery -- advertisements, posters -- that inspired Pop Art in the first place. 

Max’s popularity grew with the un-cola advertising campaign for 7-Up. His work is noted for its vibrant colors and he has painted for six presidents and his paintings are displayed in various U.S. embassies. He has also been the official artist for a number of events, including the Super Bowl, and the Grammy Awards. He is alive today, although some have claimed that he has dementia, and questions have arisen regarding the authenticity of his recent works.

Mel Ramos: Objects And Objectification

Mel Ramos, 'AC Annie,; 1972. Source: frankfluegel.com

Mel Ramos was known for his racy nudes, and is probably the most controversial artist in this list. He was educated at Sacramento State College, eventually earning a Master’s. His artwork used rich color, influenced by advertising images. It featured women in various stages of undress, posed with human-size objects, including martini glasses, cigars, AC Delco spark plugs, Chiquita bananas, and Velveeta cheese.  

Mel Ramos' paintings might be a statement on objectification of women. Or they might simply be objectifying women.

His women were stylistically similar to earlier pin-up girls, leading some to claim that he was satirizing that genre. Some criticized his work because it objectified women, while others argued that Ramos used his artwork to satirize the use of sex in advertising.

Andy Warhol: The Celebrity Artist

Source: (Wikimedia)

Perhaps the best known pop artist, Andy Warhol was born on August 6, 1928 in Pittsburgh, PA, the city that now houses a museum dedicated to his work. After graduating from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1949, he moved to New York, where he worked for magazines such as Vogue and Glamour. He started his career as a successful ad designer, and that influence is evident in much of his work. As he said “I just paint things I always thought were beautiful, things you use every day and never think about." 

Warhol's images often criticized the consumer culture that surrounds us. Some of his work criticizes the way that people, such as Marilyn Monroe, are commodified.

In addition to his paintings, he made hundreds of films during his life, such as Sleep, approximately five and a half hours of the poet John Giorno sleeping in the nude. His films influenced both avant-garde films and commercial films.

Tags: Advertising | Andy Warhol | Art | Claes Oldenburg | James Rosenquist | Jasper Johns | Mel Ramos | Peter Max | Pop Art | Popular Lists Of Everything From The Groovy Era | Richard Hamilton | Robert Rauschenberg | Roy Lichtenstein | Sculpture | Tom Wesselmann

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Cyn Felthousen-Post


Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!