a history of western art

from the renaissance to the present

Pop Art


people, terms, and concepts: assemblage, consumerism, techniques of mass reproduction, ben-day dots, silkscreen


This topic starts with two pre-Pop artists (often called ‘Neo-Realists’ or ‘Neo-Dadaists’), Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, before looking at the Pop Art of Warhol and Lichtenstein.

          How did Johns, Rauschenberg, and the Pop artists react against the emotional intensity and self-expressive aims of the Abstract Expressionist generation?

          What is the difference between the ‘essentialist’ and the ‘social constructivist’ theory of the self or personality? The difference between the two not only helps to distinguish between the Ab-Ex generation and the Pop generation, but also between two different types of feminism that we will consider in the next topic

          What is ‘assemblage’? How does Rauschenberg’s technique of assemblage conform to a social-constructivist idea of the self?

          What are the characteristics of Pop art? What kind of subject matter did the Pop artists tend to use? What kind of techniques did they tend to use? How is Pop both a rejection of Ab-Ex and a critique of late-20th century consumerist society?


Andy Warhol, Marilyn Diptych, Pop Art, 1962

How is this work a good example of Pop art in terms of its subject, technique, and overall meaning? How is it a reaction against the Ab-Ex generation and a parody of consumerism?

Hamilton, Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so exciting?, Pop Art, 1956

How is this work a good example of Pop art in terms of its subject, technique, and overall meaning? How is it a critique of consumerism?


Johns, Target with Four Faces, 1955

How is this work a parody of Colorfield painting? How do the plaster casts reinforce this parody and mock the self-expressive aims of the Ab-Ex generation?


Rauschenberg, Canyon, 1959 (assemblage)

How is this an example of ‘assemblage’? Why did Rauschenberg use the technique of assemblage rather than traditional painting or sculpture? What things are assembled here, and what do they reveal both about Rauschenberg himself and about his wider social context?


Lichtenstein, Oh, Jeff, Pop Art, 1964

How is this work a good example of Pop art in terms of its subject, technique, and overall meaning? How is it a reaction against the Ab-Ex generation and a parody of consumerism?