Roy Lichtenstein was an American pop artist best known for his boldly-colored parodies of comic strips and advertisements. He was born in New York City on October 27, 1923, and grew up on Manhattan's Upper West Side. In the 1960s, Lichtenstein became a leading figure of the new Pop Art movement. Inspired by advertisements and comic strips, Lichtenstein's bright, graphic works parodied American popular culture and the art world itself. His parents were Milton and Beatrice Werner Lichtenstein. Throughout his childhood, he spent most of his time in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. As a young boy, he developed an interest in two things - comic books and science.
Roy Lichtenstein was born in New York City on October 27, 1923, the son of Milton and Beatrice Werner Lichtenstein. His father owned a real estate firm. Lichtenstein studied with artist Reginald Marsh (1898–1954) at the Art Students League in 1939. After graduating from Benjamin Franklin High School in New York City, he entered Ohio State University. However, in 1943 his education was interrupted by three years of army service, during which he drew up maps for planned troop movements across Germany during World War II (1939–45; a war in which Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States fought against Germany, Japan, and Italy). Lichtenstein received his bachelor of fine arts degree from Ohio State University in 1946 and a master of fine arts degree in 1949. He taught at Ohio State until 1951, then went to Cleveland, Ohio, to work. In 1957 he started teaching at Oswego State College in New York; in 1960 he moved to Rutgers University in New Jersey. Three years later he gave up teaching to paint full-time.
After his wartime service, Lichtenstein returned to Ohio State in 1946 to finish his undergraduate degree and master's degree—both in fine arts. He briefly taught at Ohio State before moving to Cleveland and working as a window-display designer for a department store, an industrial designer, and a commercial art instructor.
In the next several years his work was included in gallery shows, such as a group exhibition at the Ten-Thirty Gallery in Cleveland, where he met his future wife Isabel Wilson, the gallery assistant at Ten-Thirty. By this stage, his paintings featured musicians, street workers, and racecar drivers rendered in biomorphic shapes and in a style that recalled the Surrealist work of Paul Klee. Over the next several years, Lichtenstein's paintings featured birds and insects in this same Surrealist style, as well as medieval motifs, particularly imagery of knights and dragons. In addition to strictly two-dimensional paintings, Lichtenstein began nurturing what would become a long-standing interest in using multiple media; in his first solo show in New York, at Carlebach Gallery (1951), he exhibited three-dimensional assemblages of kings and horses made of wood, metal, and found objects.
Experimentation & work
Lichtenstein began experimenting with different subjects and methods in the early 1960s, while he was teaching at Rutgers University. His newer work was both a commentary on American popular culture and a reaction to the recent success of Abstract Expressionist painting by artists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Instead of painting abstract, often subject-less canvases as Pollock and others had done, Lichtenstein took his imagery directly from comic books and advertising. Rather than emphasize his painting process and his own inner, emotional life in his art, he mimicked his borrowed sources right down to an impersonal-looking stencil process that imitated the mechanical printing used for commercial art.
Lichtenstein's best-known work from this period is "Whaam!," which he painted in 1963, using a comic book panel from a 1962 issue of DC Comics' All-American Men of War as his inspiration. Other works of the 1960s featured cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and advertisements for food and household products. He created a large-scale mural of a laughing young woman (adapted from an image in a comic book) for the New York State Pavilion of the 1964 World's Fair in New York City.
In the mid-sixties, he began creating Pop versions of paintings by modern masters, including Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) and Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) and started screen printing. In the seventies, he broadened his range to include sculpture, most often in polished brass in the Art Deco style of the 1930s. In addition, he completed a number of composite works such as Artist's Studio, Look Mickey (1973, Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis), dabbled with Surrealism in works like Pow Wow (1979, Ludwig Forum, Aachen), and designed a range of ceramic tableware. His later work featured several large-scale commissions for public places (eg. Lamp in St. Mary’s, Georgia). In 1989, at Christie's sale of contemporary art in New York, Lichtenstein's painting "Torpedo...Los!" sold for $5.5 million - a record for the artist.
Lichtenstein became known for his deadpan humor and his slyly subversive way of building a signature body of work from mass-reproduced images. By the mid-1960s, he was nationally known and recognized as a leader in the Pop Art movement that also included Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, and Claes Oldenburg. His art became increasingly popular with both collectors and influential art dealers like Leo Castelli, who showed Lichtenstein's work at his gallery for 30 years. Like much Pop Art, it provoked debate over ideas of originality, consumerism, and the fine line between fine art and entertainment.
Through the 1950s, Lichtenstein painted and created sculptures in a variety of styles, many of them influenced by Picasso, Klee, and the current abstract expressionists. These early images involved anthropomorphic plants (i.e., with human characteristics), medieval subjects, and themes from American folklore--subjects that laid the foundation for the pop paintings of common American themes that he was soon to create.
By 1957, Lichtenstein had left Cleveland with his wife and two sons to teach a variety of art classes in the New York City area, while trying to get his painting career ignited. In New York, he began to meet fellow artists who would soon define the pop art movement. This influence, along with exposure to the exhibitions of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, helped steer Lichtenstein into his first pop piece titled "Look Mickey" (1961), which was his first non-expressionist painting.
Roy Lichtenstein played a critical role in subverting the skeptical view of commercial styles and subjects established by the Abstract Expressionists. By embracing "low" art such as comic books and popular illustration, Lichtenstein became one of the most important figures in the Pop art movement. While his paintings of cartoons and comics are his most recognizable work, he had a prolific and somewhat eclectic career that drew from Cubism, Surrealism, and Expressionism. But it is his re-imagining of popular culture through the lens of traditional art history that has remained a considerable influence to later generations of artists, as Pop art went on to significantly inform Postmodernism. Roy Lichtenstein didn't cultivate his celebrity as some of his pop art contemporaries did. Instead, he continued to explore and work on projects that he found appealing. He didn't take his art or himself too seriously but continued to work right up to the time of his death on September 29, 1997. Roy Lichtenstein's legacy remains significant, as his unique contributions are still enjoyed throughout the world.
Conclution by David Carranco.
I realize how important pop art has been during the history of arts as an unexpected way of expression, driving people to change the static habit of looking at paintings. Something changed from the vision of artists that tried to express themselves in a very graphic and uncommon way by the time.
So, I decided to look up for Roy Lichtenstein's ideas and ways of expression, being known as one of the most laureated artists in pop arts. Masterpieces like “wham” clearly reflect how these times were making people believe in surrealism and also to begin a new type of realism for people who don`t want to follow rules every time. So, I would say is my favorite one for real.
I really think that the arts don`t have to follow rules at all. You just have to imagine something you believe in, and then, the representation in a physical way would be the toughest thing, but also the media for creating whatever you want as a way of communicating something. The conceptualization of imaginary things could be sometimes the path for knowing ourselves better.
Concluding with that, there`s nothing but a love for pop arts for my life in general.
Written by: David Arturo Carranco Villarnobo
JM Art Management