Yesterday, we went over the most prominent theory of Pop Art, the New York Theory. Today we’re looking at a lesser-known but equally likely theory, The London theory.
To help Britain face its incredible debt after World War II and to stop the spread of Soviet Communism, the United States started the Marshall Plan. Long story short, the plan helped get the country back on its feet and brought American media and advertisements with it. Younger generations enjoyed American comics and magazines but the older generations found them degenerate and materialistic. It’s important for us to remember while those magazines look retro to us, they resembled new and exciting technology back in the day.
Many of these young people,like Eduardo Paolazzoi, grew up in poor families who couldn’t afford material things so they assembled colleges of magazine imagery to communicate their desires. If American artists were rebelling against the “fine art establishment” (Abstract Expressionism), then the British were rebelling against an older generation’s more conservative ideals.
One of the most notable figures of early British Pop Art is Richard Hamilton (who later became friends with Paul McCartney and designed album covers for the Beatles). He originally studied at the Royal Academy in London but he became frustrated with its emphasis on 19th century classical art and was expelled. He later joined the Slade School of Fine Art where he meant an artist named Nigel Henderson and joined The Independent Group (it had a lot of artists who became quite successful).
They held their first exhibit in 1951 (four years before Johns and Rachenburg shook the art world) and continued to shock and intrigue audiences with modern and even scandalous images. That’s the condensed version of the beginnings of Pop Art in Britain. To think a world renowned art movement began with a bunch of rebellious college students cutting and pasting pictures from magazines…
Collins, B (2012) Pop Art. New York, NY: Phaidon Press Limited (I didn’t need many sources for this condensed history but if you are curious about Pop Art, I highly recommend this book)