'Explore how mechanical reproduction in the twentieth century has altered the way in which art is perceived and understood.'

Essay by thoughtdisorderHigh School, 11th gradeA, September 2008

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Mechanical reproduction was a movement that began in the twentieth century. The twentieth century saw the rise in industry and technology, which allowed for commercial items to be mass produced. This mass production, or mechanical reproduction as it came to be known, is reflective in the art of the time.

Art depicts and reflects the time in which it was created. Often content, styles and method of production are relevant to social climate and evolving thoughts of an era.

These mass produced items and the commercial market they created are evident in the art produced during the age of mechanical reproduction. Pop art was an avante garde movement within this period which predicted and reflected the rapid growth of the economy and the sudden need to consume.

American pop artist Andy Warhol created numerous works throughout the rise of the movement. His works were primarily screen prints of photographs removed from magazines of celebrities popular at or around that time, or screen prints of commercial products (soup cans and washing powder, for example).

The way in which he produced his works and their content are an example of mechanical reproduction in themselves. The principle of screen printing is to create a stencil image, and from this one stencil the same image may be reproduced continuously numerous times. This process is the equivalent to mass production.

Whilst Warhol’s methods of production represent industry’s methods, so too does his content. Warhol’s work constantly incorporates images of commercial items of mass/ popular culture.

Andy Warhol's '100 Soup Cans' and 'Marilyn Munroe Triptych’ are examples of highly consumerist content common in Warhol’s work. The first depicts one hundred Campbell’s soup cans, emphasising the huge quantities of products that are simply dropped of the production line and into super markets, conveniently in place for the...