Mary Quant has an exhibition at the V&A this year, and it reminded us just how much we love 60s design. In particular, for us, pop art. And whilst personally we’d class much of Quant’s work as pop-art-esque in style, she typically isn’t associated with the movement (which focuses more on paintings).

Pop art is characterised by its ironic emphasis on the banal and kitschy elements of popular culture. And is often interpreted as a reaction to abstract expressionism, as well as the predecessor of postmodern art. 

A primary aim of the form was to blur the lines between “high art” and “low culture”. Focussing on the popular as opposed to the elitist.

There are lots of influential artists who helped to shape the scene, many of whom came out of the UK. Eduardo Paolozzi, Richard Hamilton, and John McHale to name just a few (these three were all members of the Independent Group, which was considered to be the precursor of the pop art movement). 

But rather than documenting the movement’s entire history, and extolling the creative influences of Swinging 60s design, we thought we’d let the work speak for itself. So here our a few of our favourite pieces from this golden era of design.

Roy Lichtenstein, Drowning Girl (1963) 

“I don’t care! I’d rather sink — than call Brad for help!” laments Lichtenstein’s 1963 Drowning Girl.

The appropriation of comic book images is one of the more widely known methods of pop art. It’s still used frequently today, although, perhaps somewhat ironically, in more of a commercial sense. You’ll find this kind of thing appearing increasingly on coasters, stationary items, and cheap prints. But still, Lichenstein was a pioneer, and this is one of his better-known pieces.

Andy Warhol, Campbell’s Soup (1968)

Fine art meets mass production in one of Warhol’s most iconic and enduring works. Originally hand painted, Warhol went on to produce future versions of the piece through screenprinting. 

David Hockney, A Bigger Splash (1967)

Static and dynamic contrasts, stand-out colours, and stylisation make this a classic piece of pop art. Inspired by a photograph from a pool manual, Hockney said of this piece, “I loved the idea of painting this thing that lasts for two seconds: it takes me two weeks to paint this event that lasts for two seconds.” 

Milton Glaser, Dylan (1966)

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The highly contrasting, saturated colours, along with the swirling design, evoke highly psychedelic visuals here. Fitting for the time. There’s also a strong influence taken from Marcel Duchamp’s self-portrait.  

Mary Quant’s daisies

They may not be officially classified as pop art, but these daisies symbolise the time spirit in which the movement was born. (Plus we mentioned her in the intro, so it’s only fair to include her here.)

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