10 Most Famous Pop Art Paintings And Collages

Pop Art was an art movement that dominated the art world in the mid 20th century. Considered the last prominent modern art movement, Pop Art appreciates popular culture as opposed to elitist culture. It is characterized by bright colors and use of recognizable imagery from popular culture like advertisements, celebrities, mundane cultural objects and comic book characters. Pop Art may be seen as a reaction against Abstract Expressionism, the then dominant movement which emphasized on conveying strong emotional or expressive content through abstraction. Eduardo Paolozzi and Richard Hamilton are generally regarded as the pioneers of the Pop Art movement. I Was A Rich Man’s Plaything by Paolozzi was the first artwork to use the word “pop” while Hamilton’s Just what Is It was the first work of the movement to reach iconic status. Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein went on the become the most renowned figures of the movement. Their best known works include Marilyn Diptych, Whaam! and Campbell’s Soup Cans. Here are the 10 most famous artworks of Pop Art.

#10 Still Life #35

Still Life #35 (1963)
Still Life #35 (1963) – Tom Wesselmann
Location:Dallas Museum of Art, Texas
Artist:Tom Wesselmann

Tom Wesselmann categorically stated that: “I dislike labels in general and ‘Pop’ in particular, especially because it overemphasizes the material used.” Nonetheless, he is regarded as one of the major artists of New York Pop Art, along with Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Among his most popular works in pop art is the Still Life series. This work (Still Life #35) is perhaps the best known work of the series. From first view of the artwork, one can tell that it is an image of mid-20th century America. Yet it also references traditional European still lifes that depicted commonplace objects. Wesselmann shows bread and cigarettes on his canvas among other things.

#9 On the Balcony

On the Balcony (1957)
On the Balcony (1957) – Peter Blake
Location:Tate Britain, London
Artist:Peter Blake

Peter Blake is a versatile artist who has produced sculpture, engraving and printmaking, as well as commercial art in the form of graphics. However, he is most renowned for his collages, which combine images from pop culture with fine art. In his vibrant artworks, one may see images of wrestlers, music-hall entertainers, film stars, advertisements etc. along with traditional fine art. This artwork takes its name from Eduard Manet’s The Balcony (1868), a copy of which is held by a boy on the left-hand side. Though the artwork appears to be a collage, it is wholly painted. It is a prime example of Blake’s signature technique of making meta-pictures, or paintings of pictures within pictures. On the Balcony is one of the best known works of Peter Blake and an iconic piece of British pop art.

#8 I was a Rich Man’s Plaything

I was a Rich Man's Plaything (1947)
I was a Rich Man’s Plaything (1947) – Eduardo Paolozzi
Location:Tate Britain, London
Artist:Eduardo Paolozzi

Sir Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of the Pop Art movement. Created in 1947, I was a Rich Man’s Plaything is a collage made from cuttings from American magazines and advertisements, mounted on card. The biggest collage element takes up the top two thirds of the work. It is the cover of a magazine called “Intimate Confessions”. A gun is pasted near it and it emits the word “pop”. I was a Rich Man’s Plaything was the first artwork to display the word “pop”, years before the term Pop Art was coined. This collage is the most famous work of Paolozzi and it is considered the initial standard flag bearer of Pop Art movement.

#7 Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?

Just What Is It (1956)
Just What Is It (1956) by Richard Hamilton
Location:Kunsthalle Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
Artist:Richard Hamilton

Along with the Scottish artist Eduardo Paolozzi, Richard Hamilton is considered the pioneer of the Pop Art movement. His 1955 exhibition Man, Machine and Motion; and his collage Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? are considered by art historians to be among the earliest works of pop art. Just What Is It, a parody of American advertising, in fact gave the name to the Pop Art movement. The name comes from an enormous lollipop in the hands of the central figure in the collage with the brand name “Tootsie POP”. Consisting of images taken from American magazines, Just What Is It is regarded as the first work of Pop Art to reach iconic status.

#6 Drowning Girl

Drowning Girl (1962)
Drowning Girl (1962) – Roy Lichtenstein
Location:Museum of Modern Art, New York City
Artist:Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein initially worked in Cubism and Abstract Expressionism before moving to Pop Art, the genre in which he made his mark. Considered a cornerstone of Lichtenstein’s work, Drowning Girl is sometimes also referred to as ‘I Don’t Care! I’d Rather Sink’. The printing method and the use of speech balloon to convey thoughts give the painting an appearance of a comic book page. The heroine appears a victim of an unhappy love affair who would rather drown than ask for help from her lover. The Drowning Girl has been described as a “masterpiece of melodrama” and it is the most famous painting of Lichtenstein after Whaam!. It is part of the permanent collection of MoMA since 1971.

#5 A Bigger Splash

A Bigger Splash (1967)
A Bigger Splash (1967) – David Hockney
Location:Tate Britain, London
Artist:David Hockney

The most famous work of Hockney, A Bigger Splash is a large pop art painting measuring 242.5 cm × 243.9 cm (95.5 in × 96.0 in). It depicts a sun-drenched swimming pool in Los Angeles. Apart from the swimming pool, the painting contains a pink modernist building, an empty chair and spindly palm trees. Moreover the reflection of the neighboring building may be seen on the glass of the window of the pink building. However, what makes the work interesting is that it is devoid of human presence. The splash is shown but the viewer is left wondering who dived in. A Bigger Splash was created with meticulous care by Hockney, simplifying but enlarging his earlier paintings titled “A Little Splash” (1966) and “The Splash” (1966). Hockey later said about the painting that he “realized that a splash could never be seen this way in real life, it happens too quickly. And I was amused by this, so I painted it in a very, very slow way.”

#4 Flag

Flag (1955)
Flag (1955) – Jasper Johns
Location:Museum of Modern Art, New York City
Artist:Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns is one of the most renowned living artists in the world. His work in painting, sculpture and printmaking has affected nearly every artistic movement since the 1950s to the present including Abstract Expressionism, Neo Dada and the Pop Art movement. Johns was among the artists who laid the foundations of Pop Art movement’s embrace of commodity culture. The main focus of his Pop Art works is signs, like flags, targets and maps. His best known work, Flag, is one of the most recognizable artworks of the Pop Art movement. It is said that he created it after having a dream of the American flag. Johns created the painting at the age of 24 and it was included in his first solo exhibition. Such was the success of Flag that Johns went on to create more than 40 works based on the American flag.

#3 Whaam!

Whaam! (1963)
Whaam! (1963) – Roy Lichtenstein
Location:Tate Modern, London
Artist:Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein is the most famous American Pop Art artist after Andy Warhol and Whaam! is his most renowned work. The painting is one among several works by the artist which depict aerial combat. Lichtenstein had a three year stint in the United States army from 1943 to 1946 and Whaam! is inspired by an illustration of comic-book illustrator Irv Novick, whom he met during this period. Inspired by images of comic books, the painting shows a fighter plane firing a rocket which hits another plane to blow it up in flames. Whaam! is noted for combining brilliant color and narrative situation. It “documents while it gently parodies the familiar hero images of modern America.”

#2 Campbell’s Soup Cans

Campbell's Soup Can (1962) (Tomato)
Campbell’s Soup Can (1962) (Tomato) – Andy Warhol
Location:Museum of Modern Art, New York City
Artist:Andy Warhol

One of the most famous works of Pop Art, Campbell’s Soup Cans consist of thirty-two canvases, one of each of the 32 varieties offered by the company at the time. It is the work of art that led to Pop Art becoming a major art movement in the U.S. The non-painterly style and the commercial subject of the painting initially caused offense as it affronted the technique and philosophy of Abstract Expressionism, the then dominant style in America. The resulting debates on the merits and ethics of such a painting which lacked the aesthetics and mystical inclination of Abstract Expressionist works created an uproar in the American art world. It made Andy Warhol the leading and the most well-known artist of the Pop Art movement.

#1 Marilyn Diptych

Marilyn Diptych (1962)
Marilyn Diptych (1962) – Andy Warhol
Location:Tate Modern, London
Artist:Andy Warhol

Legendary American actress Marilyn Monroe died in August 1962. In the following weeks, Andy Warhol, acclaimed as the Pope of Pop Art, made this masterpiece which contains fifty images of the actress. All the images are based on the same publicity photograph from the 1953 film Niagara. The 25 images on the left side of the work are vividly colored while the 25 on the right are in black and white with an effect of fading. Critics suggest that the contrast is suggestive of the star’s mortality. Marilyn Diptych is an iconic work of Pop Art. It is also the best known masterpiece of Andy Warhol; and the most famous painting by an American artist. In 2004, it was named the third most influential piece of modern art in a survey of 500 artists, curators, critics and dealers, which was commissioned by the sponsor of the Turner prize.

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