(Blogpost) Modern British Art: Pop and Prosperity

Hi there art lovers! This December we’ve been looking at the ins and outs of British art history, from the 1880s right up to the most recent developments in painting. Today we’ve reached the Swinging Sixties, which means shining a spotlight on Pop Art and Minimalism, as seen in in Swindon’s art collection…

Let’s begin with Pop Art, a vibrant art movement which flourished in Britain and America in the 1960s. Its artists rebelled against traditional art forms and responded to the world around them, which was dominated by consumer-driven culture, mass media and developments in technology. Popular imagery like advertising, product packaging and comic books became sources of inspiration.

Richard Hamilton was one of the key artists to emerge in the first wave of British Pop in the 1950s. His work aimed to break down boundaries between high and low art, and reflected his interest in two innovations of the era – modern technology and mass media culture.

Richard Hamilton, Interior Study (a), 1964, Oil and collage on paper

Swindon’s piece, Interior Study (a), is a collage constructed of imagery from a number of sources. The setting is the house of the daughter of French realist artist Édouard Manet, which was photographed for a magazine. The female figure was cut out of an advertisement for a washing machine, and in her new context admires a TV screen, which has replaced a painting on an easel.

In contrast to this vibrant mash-up of popular imagery, another movement that emerged in this decade advocated a more stripped-back approach…

The term “minimalism” came into use in the 1960s to describe art that was devoid of subject matter and expression. In sculpture, industrial materials were favoured, and painting was reduced down to simple geometric forms such as squares, rectangles and circles. In doing this, minimalist artists sought to alter environments, and find new relationships between an artwork and its surroundings.

Roger Cook. R25, 1964, Acrylic on Canvas

Roger Cook’s R 25 is comprised of six equal boards measuring 10 x 61cm, encased in canvas and painted with monochromatic tones of acrylic. This reflects minimalism’s aim to achieve equality of parts, repetition and neutral surfaces within a work of art. R 25 does not represent a particular subject matter or personal response, but rather considers the relationship between basic forms and their environment.

Cook also plays with the communication between light and dark within the work. By placing various tones next to each other in such a linear fashion, they create the illusion of receding inward or projecting outward. So you see, when it comes to minimalism there’s often more to it than initially meets the eye!

Before you go… If this quick overview of Pop Art and Minimalism has tickled your fancy, why not visit our YouTube Channel and listen to Episode 10 of our Art Snaps series Pop and Prosperity? You can also click here to read a past post about another fabulous piece of Pop Art from Swindon’s art collection. Our final offering for today, is a virtual exhibition Modern British Art: A Story, which is the inspiration behind this series of blogposts exploring the story of Modern British Art through Swindon’s collection!

Blogpost by Katie Ackrill (Project Engagement Officer, Art on Tour)

One thought on “(Blogpost) Modern British Art: Pop and Prosperity

  1. Yes, more to the Roger Cook than initially meets the eye but I find it hard not to see minimalism, in its relating of basic forms to the environment, as straying into interior design. Interesting to consider though, so thank you for the challenge!


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