ROY LICHTENSTEIN BIOGRAPHY

 

 Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein was a prominent American pop artist. During the 1960s, his paintings were exhibited along with Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, James Rosenquist, and others. He became a leading figure in the new Pop Art movement. He was a pop art painter whose works defined the basic premise of pop art better than any other through parody and a style derived from comic strips, portraying the trivialization of culture endemic in contemporary American life often in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Using bright, strident colors and techniques borrowed from the printing industry, he ironically incorporates mass-produced emotions and objects into highly sophisticated references to art history. 

Born in New York City in 1923, Lichtenstein studied briefly at the Art Students League, then enrolled at Ohio State University. After serving in the army from 1943 to 1946, he returned to Ohio State to get a master's degree and to teach. 

In 1951, Lichtenstein came back to New York City and had his first one-man show. He also continued to teach, first at the New York State College of Education at Oswego, and later at Douglass College, a division of Rutgers University in New Jersey. 

Through the 1950s, Lichtenstein used the basic techniques of abstract expressionism, but incorporated into his compositions such themes as cowboys and Indians and paper money. In 1961, however, while at Douglass College, impressed by the work of colleague Allan Kaprow, he turned to the use of comic-strip and cartoon figures by which he is known today. Flatten... sandfleas (1962, Museum of Modern Art) was the first important example of his new style. 

Primary colors red, yellow and blue, heavily outlined in black--became his favorites. Occasionally he used green. Instead of shades of color, he used the Ben-Day dot, a method by which an image is created, and its density of tone modulated in printing. Sometimes he selected a comic-strip scene, recomposed it, projected it onto his canvas and stenciled in the dots. "I want my painting to look as if it had been programmed," Lichtenstein explained. Despite the fact that many of his paintings are relatively small, Lichtenstein's method of handling his subject matter conveys a sense of monumental size. His images seem massive. 

His most famous image is arguably Whaam! (1963, Tate Modern), one of the earliest known examples of pop art, adapted from a comic-book panel from a 1962 issue of DC Comics' All-American Men of War. The painting depicts a fighter aircraft firing a rocket into an enemy plane, with a red-and-yellow explosion. The cartoon style is heightened by the use of the onomatopoeic lettering “Whaam!” and the boxed caption "I pressed the fire control... and ahead of me rockets blazed through the sky..." This diptych is large in scale, measuring 1.7 x 4.0 m (5 ft 7 in x 13 ft 4 in). Whaam! is widely regarded as one of his finest and most notable works. It follows the comic strip-based themes of some of his previous paintings and is part of a body of war-themed work created between 1962 and 1964. It is one of his two notable large war-themed paintings. It was purchased by the Tate Modern in 1966. 

In the early 1960’s, he turned to the work of artists such as Picasso, Mondrian, and even Monet as inspiration for his work. In the mid-1960s, he also painted sunsets and landscapes in his by-now familiar style. In addition, he also designed ceramic tableware and graphics for mass production. "I'm interested in portraying a sort of anti-sensibility that pervades society," Lichtenstein said, summing up his work. 

In 1967 his first museum retrospective exhibition was held at the Pasadena Art Museum in California. Also in this year his first solo exhibition in Europe was held at museums in Amsterdam, London, Bern and Hannover. He married his second wife, Dorothy Herzka in 1968. 

In the 1970s and 1980s, his work began to loosen and expand on what he had done before. He produced a series of "Artists Studios" which incorporated elements of his previous work. A notable example being Artist's Studio, Look Mickey (1973, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis) which incorporates five other previous works, fitted into the scene. 

In the late 1970s, this style was replaced with more surreal works such as Pow Wow (1979, Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Aachen). In 1977, he was commissioned by BMW to paint a Group 5 Racing Version of the BMW 320i for the third instalment in the BMW Art Car Project. In addition to paintings, he also made sculptures in metal and plastic including some notable public sculptures such as Lamp in St. Mary’s, Georgia in 1978, and over 300 prints, mostly in screen-printing. 

His painting Torpedo...Los! sold at Christie's for $5.5 million in 1989, a record sum at the time, making him one of only three living artists to have attracted such huge sums in their own lifetime. In 1996 the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. became the largest single repository of the artist's work when he donated 154 prints and 2 books. In total there are some 4,500 works thought to be in circulation. On May 9th 2012, “Sleeping Girl” surpassed the high estimate of $40 million and the previous Lichtenstein record of $43.2 million and sold for $44.9 million at Sotheby’s in New York, a new record for a Lichtenstein. 

He died of pneumonia in 1997 at New York University Medical Center.