Where Did Pop Art Start? Is Pop Art British or American? | By Kerwin blog

Where Did Pop Art Start? Is Pop Art British or American?

Exploring the geographic roots of this iconic art movement – plus its global cultural impact

Pop Art, with its bold colours, iconic imagery, and cultural commentary, has left a lasting mark on the world of art. It emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, and much of modern-day Pop Art still bears a retro element that refers back to this nostalgic period. But where exactly was Pop Art born?

In this article, as a British Pop Artist myself (who has exhibited in both London and New York), I delve into the origins of Pop Art and explore the intriguing debate of whether its roots lie in British or American art scenes.

Pop Art’s roots begin in both Britain and America in the 1950s. Created by London’s The Independent Group in 1952, American consumerism influences helped shape Pop Art’s style over the rest of the decade. Pop Art’s impact also transcends national boundaries, becoming a global cultural force.

Read on as I discuss the evolution of Pop Art across both sides of the pond…

This article accompanies my blog post examining who invented Pop Art – click here to read that post.

The Emergence of Pop Art

The birth of Pop Art can be traced back to the post-World War II era when the world was experiencing a cultural shift. Characterised by its incorporation of everyday objects, consumer goods, and mass media imagery, Pop Art emerged as a direct response to the changing landscape of consumer culture.

Key artists like Eduardo Paolozzi and Richard Hamilton laid the foundation by infusing elements of popular culture into their works, thus sowing the seeds of the movement.

Just What Is It that Makes Today's Homes so Different, so Appealing? artwork by artist Richard Hamilton 1956
Pop Art by Richard Hamilton – one of Pop Art’s early founders from Britain

Where Did Pop Art Start: Britain or America?

For many, ‘Pop Art’ conjures images of distinctly American culture, such as Coca-Cola bottles and the likes of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. However, many others would also point out that Pop Art’s origins can be traced to meetings of The Independent Group in London in 1952. I discuss Pop Art’s early origins in my related blog post here.

In reality, the emergence and development of Pop Art was not confined to a single shore but rippled across both Britain and America, each contributing unique brushstrokes to its vibrant canvas.

Pop Art’s roots begin in both Britain and America in the 1950s. Created by London’s The Independent Group in 1952, American consumerism influences helped shape Pop Art’s style over the rest of the decade. Pop Art’s impact also transcends national boundaries, becoming a global cultural force.

Comparing Emergence and Key Artists

In Britain, luminaries like Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi ignited the movement’s intellectual underpinnings. Hamilton’s groundbreaking artworks challenged conventional art forms, while Paolozzi’s embrace of consumer culture hinted at the movement’s essence.

Across the Atlantic, America saw the rise of iconic figures such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Warhol’s exploration of celebrity and consumerism, as seen in his Campbell’s Soup cans, became emblematic, while Lichtenstein’s comic-inspired art captivated with bold lines and vibrant hues.

Read my article about Pop Art’s ‘founding’ in 1952, and where the term ‘Pop Art’ came from, here.

Andy Warhol Campbell's Soup Cans paintings

Influences of Culture and Society

Cultural and societal contexts painted distinct strokes on the Pop Art canvas. In Britain, the post-war atmosphere fostered a keen introspection on the changing landscape of modernity. The Independent Group’s dialogues about consumerism and mass media resonated with the mood of a nation in transition.

In America, the post-war economic boom and the emergence of consumer culture spurred a fascination with commodities, advertising, and icons. These divergent influences shaped how Pop Art manifested in each region.

My own range of By Kerwin Pop Art paintings (below) features my colourful collection of music icons. Explore my full range and shop prints here.

Cross-Influence and Exchange

Despite the Atlantic expanse, British and American artists engaged in a dynamic exchange of ideas. The British fascination with American pop culture and the latter’s receptivity to British wit fueled a cross-pollination of creativity.

As ideas traversed the ocean, they transformed, enriching the movement’s tapestry. This cross-influence blurred geographical boundaries, creating a global Pop Art movement that transcended borders.

In the narrative of Pop Art’s origin, the question of Britain versus America is more appropriately understood in the spirit of collaboration. The movement’s dual emergence across both sides of the Atlantic attests to its universal resonance. Pop Art captured the pulse of a post-war world captivated by consumerism, technology, and the visual allure of popular culture.

The British Connection

While the association of Pop Art with America might be more widely recognized, its origins also boast a British presence. The Independent Group, a collective of artists, architects, and critics in London during the 1950s, engaged in heated discussions about mass culture, consumerism, and the impact of technology on art.

These conversations were a melting pot of ideas that undoubtedly influenced the early notions of Pop Art. Richard Hamilton’s seminal artwork “Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?” showcased a quintessentially British take on Pop Art, blending collage and satire with an exploration of contemporary living.

The American Influence

As Pop Art gained momentum, its American iteration took centre stage. Artists like Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg embraced the movement’s essence, incorporating found objects and commercial imagery into their works.

The United States’ consumer-driven culture, coupled with the omnipresence of advertising, became a wellspring of inspiration for American Pop Art. It was a celebration of the ordinary, making a bold statement about art’s connection to the everyday lives of people.

American media and Hollywood movie culture were key in shaping the Pop Art style

Transatlantic Cross-Pollination

The relationship between British and American Pop Art isn’t a one-way street. These two seemingly distinct movements were intertwined in ways that defied geographical boundaries.

Artists and ideas traversed the Atlantic, enriching both scenes. Exhibitions, collaborations, and artistic dialogues flourished, reinforcing the shared undercurrents of the two movements. This cross-pollination created a fascinating tapestry that blurred the lines of origin and highlighted the global nature of Pop Art’s evolution.

Did you know: I have exhibited my range of ‘By Kerwin’ Jackson Pollock-style Pop Art paintings in both Britain and America, in New York City? View my full range of music icon paintings and shop prints here.

The Role of Pop Art in the Global Culture Wars of the Mid-20th Century

While Pop Art’s emergence occurred in both Britain and the U.S.A. – and the British and Americans still debate on where its heart lies – Pop Art also had an important uniyfying purpose, too.

Pop Art wasn’t just an artistic movement; it was a cultural battlefield during the tumultuous mid-20th century. As the world grappled with political tensions, ideological clashes, and cultural shifts, Pop Art emerged as a powerful tool in the global culture wars. The Soviet Union was rivalling the West in many ways; art and culture emerged as powerful tools through which each territory attempted to shape global culture.

By embracing and subverting the very symbols of mass media and consumerism that defined Western capitalist societies, Pop Art artists challenged prevailing norms and values. Their works held up a mirror to the contradictions of their time, sparking debates about consumer culture, societal values, and the role of art in society.

From the American consumer dream to the British class system, Pop Art dismantled assumptions and became a force that transcended national borders.

Kerwin Blackburn exhibiting his pop art paintings at The Other Art Fair, New York City in Brooklyn, June 2022 | Jackson Pollock-inspired music art prints
Me exhibiting my art in New York City, 2022. I displayed my most U.S.-focused icons at this show – plus some British flags to celebrate the transatlantic connection.

Pop Art’s Ripple Effect Across Continents

In addition to its impact on Western societies, Pop Art’s influence reverberated across continents, leaving an indelible mark on diverse cultures. In Latin America, for instance, artists like Fernando Botero blended Pop Art’s visual language with their own regional sensibilities, creating unique commentaries on social and political issues.

Asian artists, too, incorporated Pop Art aesthetics into their works, offering new perspectives on globalization, urbanization, and cultural identity. This cross-cultural adoption of Pop Art demonstrated its universal appeal and capacity to address shared concerns in an interconnected world.


Pop Art’s influence transcended its British and American roots to become a global phenomenon that shaped and responded to the socio-political fabric of its time. Its role in the global culture wars and its ability to resonate with artists across continents reveals a movement that isn’t confined to a single narrative.

Instead, Pop Art becomes a dynamic lens through which we can understand the complex interplay of art, culture, and society on a global scale.

Summing Up

In the grand tapestry of artistic history, Pop Art emerges as a collaborative effort that defies easy categorisation. While its American and British origins can be acknowledged, the movement’s impact and resonance span far beyond these geographic labels.

Pop Art’s ability to transcend boundaries and connect with audiences worldwide is a testament to its universal appeal and its power to reflect and comment on the cultural fabric of our society.

Kerwin Blackburn exhibits his By Kerwin pop art music paintings at the Barbican Centre Conservatory in London, July 2021
Pop Art’s vibrancy and recognisable imagery means it travels well across cultures

Final Touches

With its colourful palette and thought-provoking imagery, Pop Art emerged as a voice of its era, capturing the spirit of a changing world.

As we ponder the question of its origin, we realise that this movement’s heart beats with a rhythm that resonates across time and space. Whether British or American in origin, Pop Art is a celebration of the ordinary, a commentary on consumer culture, and a reminder that art is, indeed, everywhere.

This article accompanies my blog post examining who invented Pop Art. Read that post here.

Do you associate Pop Art with being more British or American? Explore my range of hand-painted acrylic Pop Art music icon paintings and prints here

My full range of Jackson Pollock-inspired acrylic paintings can be viewed at www.bykerwin.com – the originals and prints of these are available to purchase, with worldwide delivery. You can follow my art progress on Instagram and Facebook.

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