Pop Goes Art
April 15, 2016

What is Pop?

The term Pop emerged in the 1950’s. Pop Art was a movement which took place in both America and Britain.  It  was all about celebrating the can-do mood of the country at the time – it was bright, brash, confident and aspirational. Pop Artists were inspired by Hollywood movies, advertising, popular music and comic books.  Pop artists used different media and techniques to make their works of art including collage, airbrushing, traditional painting, found objects and screen printing.

Here’s our tactile and audio Pop Art picks, all available to borrow from our free library.

Self-Portrait by Peter Blake, 1961

Peter Blake Collage

Peter Blake is one of the leading artists in the British Pop Art movement and he painted his famous Self-portrait in 1961, when he was 29 years old.  This painting shows Blake standing up and facing the viewer. He’s wearing a denim jacket, red shirt buttoned up to the neck, blue jeans and black baseball boots. The front of his jacket is covered in badges and he’s holding a magazine in his hand – Elvis is on the front cover. This painting is a personal and understated portrait of someone who is literally wearing his passions on his chest and saying ‘this is me and the things I love’. It’s also an intensely nostalgic and powerful image of a particular point in time when traditional British culture was on the threshold of embracing American rock and pop music. Lily Cole, supermodel and art lover, describes Peter’s self-portrait in our book CREATE Contemporary Art.

To explore the tactile picture and listen to the audio guide of Blake’s self-portrait borrow Touch to See book  CREATE Contemporary Art.


Self-Portrait by Andy Warhol, 1986

Andy Warhol self portrait

Andy Warhol was a leading light in the America Pop Art movement. He took advertising images of the day, such as his famous Campbell Soup can, and reproduced them on a large scale using a technique called screen printing. Warhol’s talent for art showed from a young age and he loved films, photography and cartoons. He became famous for his Pop Art inspired by advertising images, consumer products and glamorous stars – from soup cans to Elvis and Marylyn Monroe. This late self-portrait by Andy Warhol is an incredibly strong and startling image. It shows a scarlet head with wild hair, staring straight out at us from a black abyss – his head appears to be almost floating.

Discover more about this enigmatic Pop Art icon, explore the tactile picture and listen to the audio guide in our Touch to See book about Tate Modern.


$he by Richard Hamilton, 1958-61

She by Richard Hamilton

In this Pop Art work Hamilton uses a mixture of collage, painting and an airbrush technique which has enabled the artist to produce smooth effects and fine graduations of colour. For example, the toaster has the appearance of polished aluminium and the woman’s flesh has the quality of a colour photograph in a glossy magazine. However, this work of art is not just about appearance – it’s a commentary on gender and the rise of mass consumerism. The first letter of the title ‘$he’ is an “S” with two vertical lines through it, the sign for a dollar in the United States of America. Perhaps Hamilton is saying that advertisers see women simply as a source of money and their spending power on consumer goods is to be exploited. This picture is a brilliant example of how a work of art can speak about social and economical history in the time it was created.

To explore this tactile picture of $he and listen to the audio guide borrow  Tate Modern.


A Bigger Splash by David Hockey, 1967

A bigger splash by David Hockney

This large acrylic painting depicts a splash in a Californian swimming pool. At the time Hockney painted it he was living in California and teaching and the University. The painting is a flat, realistic style filled with geometric shapes and lines such as the vertical palm trees, horizontal line of the pool and the diagonals of the diving board. Then there’s the chaotic splash of someone having just dived in the bright blue water. This painting celebrates Hockney’s enthusiasm for the life he found in California – the brilliant, blue sky under the sunshine, the swimming pools and a way of life very different from that of a student in overcast London.

To explore the tactile picture of A Bigger Splash and listen to the audio guide borrow Touch to See book  Weather in Art.

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