Abstract expressionism, which is ordinarily characterized by gestural brush strokes or mark making and the impact of spontaneity, is a type of American painting developed in New York City after the World War II in the Forties. Jackson Pollock one: number 31, was realized in 1947 the place Pollock used enamel paint dripping from brushes, sticks and sometimes straight from the can onto a laid canvas on the ground. This paint flicked and ‘hurled’ onto the canvas creating rolling vortexes of shade and line, balanced and offset by puddles of muted colors and all over spluttering.
Abstraction expression artwork were initiated by artists who grew up throughout the depression and were significantly influenced by World War II and its cold war aftermath. Pollock (who grew up in this era) worked in a highly spontaneous improvisatory manner, famously dancing around the canvas pouring, throwing and dripping paint onto it. By doing this, he claimed to be channeling his inner impulses directly onto the canvas, in the form of automatic or subconscious painting (Gibson, 1999).

Abstract expression movement encompassed two broad categories; action painting and gestural painting. Pollock was affiliated to the action painters because his subject abstract was entirely abstract, their iconoclastic productions became almost as important as their work, and their scale was huge (McCarthy, 2006). In other words, the vividness of the painting lay in the directness of expression: in how the artist channeled his inner emotions and impulses. In one way or the other, the painting in itself became a drama of self-revelation; hence the term “action painting (Balken, 2005).”

On the other hand, pop art celebrated people of everyday life and commonplace objects in this way seeking to elevate popular culture to the level of fine art. It reintroduced the concept of identifiable imagery; drawn from mass media and popular culture (Bolton, 2003). Campbell’s soup cans resemble the mass-produced printed advertisement, the difference being his work is hand printed while the pattern ringing each can’s bottom is hand-stamped. Pop Art in America was a reaction against Abstract Expressionism (McCarthy, 2006).

By creating paintings of mass culture objects, pop artists aimed to counteract the concept that there is no hierarchy of culture and that art may borrow from any source. Warhol’s revolutionary Campbell’s soup cans redefined the art of an era, casting new light on ideas about mass production, fame, and an artist’s public persona. Pop art was a shift away from Abstract Expressionism for a complete embrace of the consumerism, popular culture, and ironic whimsy that had begun to define postwar America (Gibson, 1999).

The Campbell’s Soup Can provide Warhol with the opportunity to express his positive view of modern culture as compared to the abstract expressionists whom he felt had taken great effort to ignore the splendor of modernity. He intended his work to be without individual expressionism or personality. His soup cans offended the art world’s sensibilities that had developed so as to partake in the intimate emotions of artistic expression (Bolton, 2003).

From the work of the two artists, it could be debatable that abstract expressionists searched for trauma in the soul, while pop artists searched for trauma in the mediated world of advertising and popular imagery. Campbell’s soup cans series encompasses a wide variety of attitudes and postures, but it is somewhat emotionally removed (McCarthy, 2006). The artwork is generally coolly ambivalent as in contrast to pollock’s one: number 31 which has a “hot” expression.

The Campbell’s soup can seemingly embrace the post world War II manufacturing and media boom which is an indication of enthusiastic endorsement of the capitalist market in America and the goods it circulated (Bolton, 2003).

Abstract expressionism played a role of expressing the rejection of representational forms, seeking an art that communicated on a monumental scale the artist’s inner state in a universal visual language (Balken, 2005). Jackson Pollock provided society with emotions, color and texture expressed eliciting the strong feelings and subconscious thoughts by creating images on canvas. He reminds society of the past, which at that time was the World War II yet at the same time challenging the boundaries of rules, society, and imagination (Gibson, 1999).

Pop art represented the visual art movement that characterized a sense of optimism during the post-war consumer boom of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Campbell’s soup cans played a role in the globalization of youthful culture that embraced the social influence of mass-media, mass-production, and mass-culture. The painting was realized in post-war New York which as compared to Britain at the time was considered being the land of the free – free from the crippling conventions of a class-ridden establishment that could suffocate the culture (Gibson, 1999).

Andy Warhol constantly had whimsical proclamations about art that were deliberately enigmatic and contrary, avoiding clarification and forcing his audience to speculate on their meaning; he was an agent of provocateur (McCarthy, 2006). He was against craftsmanship and skill as a way of expressing the artist’s personality, and the mechanical process produced his work. As such, it paved the way for modern methods of art as there was the potential for using art as a form of social progress. The very basic idea is that artists reflect themselves and their surroundings. Art plays the significant role of reminding society of the past. It keeps a record of the past happenings giving a vivid reminder of societal change and progress. It churns and jogs memories and keeps the concept of optimism alive (Gibson, 1999).


Balken, D. (2005). Abstract expressionism (1st ed.). London: Tate Publishing.

Bolton, L. (2003). Pop art (1st ed.). London: Belitha.

Gibson, A. (1999). Abstract expressionism (1st ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press.

McCarthy, D. (2006). Pop art (1st ed.). London: Tate Pub.

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