Art has been a part of our culture for a brief amount of time. The evolution of civilization and cultural beliefs also affected other fields like art and literature, as they directly represent a person’s ideologies, beliefs, and state of mind.  With time, art has also undergone various transformations and changes in art movements. Several art movements like pop art, expressionism, cubism, forced modern, surrealism, and many others are still recognized as Revolutionary movements. Along with pop art, conceptual art and Arte Povera, Op art was one of the most Recognised once in 1960 and is still admired a lot. These movements today become design inspirations in fashion product designing architecture and many other fields as well.  

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Movement of Squares by Bridget Riley._©,_Movement_in_Squares.jpg

What is Op Art?

Originating in the late 1950s and 1960s, Op Art is the abbreviation of Optical Art. Artists at that time were very fascinated by the idea of illusions and perceptions. And this continued for many centuries. Finally, it became the theme behind these art forms. Optical Art or Op Art is a composition of abstract patterns that create a striking contrast of foreground and background. The contrasting artworks often create optical illusions which fascinate the viewers. These artworks create confusion in our minds by bending the perceptions of perspectives which gives the artwork more than one interpretation. Sometimes these 2D artworks create an illusion of 3D and a false sense of movements like fluidity, rotation in the painting. 

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Optical Illusion by Victor Vasarely_©

The Journey of Op Art

Op Art dates back to pre-war times when various theories were emerging about the development of art forms. Op art was also influenced by the art movements of that time like cubism, expressionism, futurism, Dada, and the constructivist ideas of the Bauhaus school of design, which emphasized the use of formal design to create visual effects. After Bauhaus was shut in 1933, many lecturers, notably Josef Albers, moved to America. In Josef Albers’s work in the “ Homage to Square” series of paintings, initial attempts at Op Art were visible. 

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The Responsive Eye Exhibition_©George Cserna

 Another Hungarian artist, Victor Vasarely, started experimenting with various visual tricks in his artworks, evident in his famous artwork, Zebras (1938). Zebra is known as one of the earliest pioneers of Op Art. In the 1950s, John McHale painted the black and white Dazzle panels in the “ This Is Us.” exhibition of the 1950s, which also became famous for its Optical Art. In Modern times, “ The Responsive Eye” exhibition by William C. Seitz held in 1965 at New York’s Museum of Modern Art exhibited the modern interest in Op Art. The famous works of Bridget Riley, Victor Vasarely, Frank Stella, and many others were also exhibited. Though this show became very popular, it didn’t receive appreciation from the critics who dismissed it as an art of gimmicks and did not appreciate its illusion of movements. This leads to its rapid decline and is still stained with these opinions.

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Interin from the series of Graphic Tectonics_©

Significant Personalities and Their Iconic Works

Victor Vasarely

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Victor’s Optical Cube in 1975._©

The influencers of Op Art date back to the 1930s, where Victor Vasarely, a Hungarian artist, became one of the essential representatives of Op Art. He took inspiration from many art movements, like Cubism, Futurism, Bauhaus, Suprematism, and many others. Most of his works were in the op-art style, where through his paintings, he moved people’s minds by bringing them out of their visual comfort zone. His images were full of mind-bending movements, meanwhile perfectly maintaining the visual balance.

His famous works are Duo-2, Optical Cube, Zebra, BiVega, Pint Bleu – C, Ollo, and many others.

Bridget Riley

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Bridget’s work in Fall_©

Bridget Riley is one of the other game-changing op-art painters whose contribution to the movement is unparalleled. She is known for her murals and her optical illusions created by the competition of strips that seem very fluid and kinetic. Her black and white striped artworks create a disorienting image for the eyes, creating illusions. She is famous for her black and white geometric works and murals in London’s Tate gallery, John Moore’s exhibition at Liverpool, and many others. However, Bridget was not always into op art; she experimented with pointillism before moving on to a stronger form of artwork like Op Art. 

His famous works are Over Blaze, Nataraja, Cataract III, Late Morning, Fragment 3, Movement in Squares, Chant 2, and many others.

Peter Sedgley

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Peters work in Colour Cycle III_©

Contrary to the tone of color in Bridget’s work, Peter Sedgley used a variety of colors in his works. He produces luminous concentric circles of various colors, giving his artworks a unique taste. Though Sedgley was trained as an architect, he pursued his career as an artist. His works are very different in that they create illusions by using light, kinetics, and illuminations that look very dreamy. His works caught people’s attention in the exhibition of ‘The Responsive Eye,’ where the work of many other artists was showcased. 

His famous works are Spin, Blau Punkt, Enigma, Polar Light Energy, Radials In, Prussian Ring, Constellation, etc.

There several other Op Art artists like Josef Albers, Richard Allen, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Tony DeLap, Gunter Fruhtrunk, Julio Le Parc, Bridget Riley, Jesus Rafael Soto, Julian Stanczak, Günther Uecker, Ludwig Wilding, and Marian Zazeela.


Currently in her 3rd year of Architecture at IIT Roorkee, Muskan believes that architecture has the potential to shape this world and its future. Being a keen observer, she always finds connection between architecture and human psychology. Besides this, she also loves art, music, movies and connecting with others.

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