Andy Warhol is a name most people know today. And even more have seen his artwork or know of the foundation named after him and dedicated to the advancement of the visual arts. But looking at his paintings of Campbell’s Soup cans, Marilyn Monroe, commercial advertisements, and everyday common objects might not yield much of an answer as to why Warhol is so significant to the art world.
Andy Warhol was one of the leading artists that revolutionized modern art as we know it today, known to some as the “Prince of Pop.” A leader of the Pop Art movement, he incorporated everyday culture—pop culture—into his artwork. In a time when fine art rejected the idea of including “trivial” items, ideas, and people, this movement of the 1950s and 1960s largely changed the face of fine art as we see it today.
He is also known for popularizing the process of silk screening (i.e. screen printing) after he discovered that he could not paint and reproduce images fast enough using the traditional canvas method. He started using silk screening in the 1960s and never looked back.
People were enthralled with Andy Warhol’s work and the Pop Art movement because it was different from anything they’d seen done in fine art before. Warhol “brought focus to the banality of the commercial culture in the United States, creating and then pushing the artist envelope of his time.” In other words, he made everyday life in America the subject of his work, and people loved him for it.
Richard Hamilton, a British artist, once described the Pop Art movement as “popular, transient, expendable, low cost, mass-produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, big business.” That sentiment seems to reflect exactly Warhol’s own sentiment that art should be mass-produced.
So while we may look back now and see paintings that reflect a similar quality to other modern art today, it’s important to remember that that’s not why he’s famous. He is significant because he was an instrumental piece in a massive shift in popular ideas surrounding fine art—a key figure in redefining the modern art we so enjoy today.