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Roy Lichtenstein Photo

Roy Lichtenstein

American Painter, Sculptor, and Lithographer

Movements and Styles: Pop Art, Postmodernism

Born: October 27, 1923 - New York, NY

Died: September 29, 1997 - New York, NY

Roy Lichtenstein Timeline

Important Art by Roy Lichtenstein

The below artworks are the most important by Roy Lichtenstein - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Popeye (1961)

Popeye (1961)

Artwork description & Analysis: Popeye was one of the very first Pop paintings that Lichtenstein created in the summer of 1961. At a later stage he would begin to focus on the generic human figures that appeared in cartoons of the period, but, early on, he chose immediately recognizable characters such as Mickey Mouse and Popeye (here, Popeye appears with his rival Bluto). The work is also distinct in being one of the last in which Lichtenstein actually signed his name on the surface of the picture; critic Michael Lobel has pointed out that he seems to have done so with increasing uncertainty in this piece, combining it with a copyright logo that is echoed in the form of the open tin can above it. Some have suggested that Popeye's punch was intended as a sly response to one of the reigning ideas in contemporary art criticism that a picture's design should make an immediate visual impact. Whereas most believed this should be achieved with abstract art, Lichtenstein here demonstrated that one could achieve it just as well by borrowing from low culture.

Oil on canvas, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Drowning Girl (1963)

Drowning Girl (1963)

Artwork description & Analysis: In the early 1960s, Lichtenstein gained renown as a leading Pop artist for paintings sourced from comic books, specifically DC Comics. Although artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns had previously integrated popular imagery into their works, no one hitherto had focused on cartoon imagery as exclusively as Lichtenstein. His work, along with that of Andy Warhol, heralded the beginning of the Pop art movement, and, essentially, the end of Abstract Expressionism as the dominant style. Lichtenstein did not simply copy comic pages directly, he employed a complex technique that involved cropping images to create entirely new, dramatic compositions, as in Drowning Girl, whose source image included the woman's boyfriend standing on a boat above her. Lichtenstein also condensed the text of the comic book panels, locating language as another, crucial visual element; re-appropriating this emblematic aspect of commercial art for his paintings further challenged existing views about definitions of "high" art.

Oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein - The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Yellow Landscape (1965)

Yellow Landscape (1965)

Artwork description & Analysis: Lichtenstein expanded his use of bold colors and Ben-Day dots beyond the figurative imagery of comic book pages, experimenting with a wide variety of materials; his landscape pictures are a particularly strong example of this interest. Lichtenstein made a number of collages and multi-media works that included motors, metal, and often a plastic paper called Rowlux that had a shimmery surface and suggested movement. By re-appropriating the traditional artistic motif of landscape and rendering it in his Pop idiom, Lichtenstein demonstrated his extensive knowledge of the history of art and suggested the proximity of high and low art forms. His interest in modern art also led Lichtenstein to create many works that directly referenced artists such as Cézanne, Picasso, and Matisse.

Rowlux and oil on paper, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein - Kunstmuseum, St. Gallen, Switzerland

Brushstrokes (1967)

Brushstrokes (1967)

Artwork description & Analysis: Lichtenstein was a prolific printmaker throughout his career, and his prints played a substantial role in establishing printmaking as a significant art form in the 1960s. Brushstrokes, one such print, reflects his interest in the importance of the brushstroke in Abstract Expressionism. Abstract Expressionist artists had made the brushstroke a vehicle to directly communicate feelings; Lichtenstein's brushstroke made a mockery of this aspiration, also suggesting that though Abstract Expressionists disdained commercialization, they were not immune to it - after all, many of their pictures were also created in series, using the same motifs again and again. Lichtenstein has said, "The real brushstrokes are just as pre-determined as the cartoon brushstrokes."

Color screenprint on white wove paper, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein - The Art Institute of Chicago

Mirror I (1977)

Mirror I (1977)

Artwork description & Analysis: Lichtenstein was particularly fascinated by the abstract way in which cartoonists drew mirrors, using diagonal lines to denote a reflective surface. He once remarked, "Now, you see those lines and you know it means 'mirror,' even though there are obviously no such lines in reality. It's a convention that we unconsciously accept." The mirror was a recurring leitmotif for Lichtenstein during the 1970s, but the artist had experimented with the graphic representation of reflection in earlier works, driven in part by an interest in the relationship between women and mirrors - both in historical artworks and in contemporary culture. Although the series might have been inspired by the appearance of mirrors in cartoons, Lichtenstein clearly also wanted to engage with themes of reproduction and reflection, which have interested artists at least as far back as the Renaissance.

Painted bronze, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein - San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, CA

House II (Model 1966, fabricated 1997)

House II (Model 1966, fabricated 1997)

Artwork description & Analysis: Public and outdoor artworks, both painting and sculpture, constitute a significant portion of Lichtenstein's work, starting with a mural painted for the 1964 World's Fair in Queens, New York. The large-scale sculpture House I plays with perspective and illusion: depending on where the viewer stands, he or she will see the building's corner appear to move forward or backward within space. Despite Lichtenstein's typical use of flat colors and the fact that this sculpture is really a flat piece of metal, the structure's design lends a sense of volume. He produced several House sculptures, all of which can be connected to Lichtenstein's interest in the interiors of buildings, a subject he visited most explicitly in his later work.

Fabricated and painted aluminum, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein - National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.



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Roy Lichtenstein Photo

Related Art and Artists

Large Nude in a Red Armchair (1929)
Artwork Images

Large Nude in a Red Armchair (1929)

Artist: Pablo Picasso

Artwork description & Analysis: When Picasso's work came under the influence of the Surrealists in the late 1920s, his forms often took on melting, organic contours. This work was completed in May 1929, around the same time the Surrealists were preoccupied with the way in which ugly and disgusting imagery might provide a route into the unconscious. It was clearly intended to shock, and it may have been influenced by Salvador Dali - and Joan Miro. It is thought that the picture represents the former dancer Olga Koklova, whose relationship with Picasso was failing around this time.

Oil on canvas

Skyway (1964)
Artwork Images

Skyway (1964)

Artist: Robert Rauschenberg

Artwork description & Analysis: While Rauschenberg was no stranger to collaged found imagery, the silkscreen technique reinvigorated his artistic practice in the early 1960s. After Andy Warhol introduced him to the photo-silkscreen technique. Rauschenberg created a series of silkscreen paintings that allowed for an open-ended association of meanings through his appropriation and arrangement of mass media imagery. In Skyway, Rauschenberg wanted to communicate the frenetic pace of American culture encapsulated in the early half of the decade, particularly as represented on television and in magazines. He stated, "I was bombarded with television sets and magazines, by the excess of the world. I thought an honest work should incorporate all of those elements." He created the work in the year following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Kennedy was a potent symbol for change, even though he was struck down only halfway through his first term as president. The image of Kennedy appears twice in the upper half of the painting surrounded by images that illustrate the ideals of American progress in the second half of the twentieth century including an astronaut, the bald eagle, and a large, mechanical crane surrounded by a demolished building. The lower half of the canvas contains a repeated image of Venus at Her Toilet (1608) by Peter Paul Rubens. The mirror within the painting expands the image into the viewer's space, mirroring the world around them as well as the world around Rauschenberg when he created the work. While the appropriated images can be read as politically and socially laden, Rauschenberg claimed he aimed to encapsulate the contemporary climate rather than comment on it, using "simple images" to "neutralize the calamities that were going on in the outside world."

Oil and silkscreen on canvas - Dallas Museum of Art

Flag (1954-55)
Artwork Images

Flag (1954-55)

Artist: Jasper Johns

Artwork description & Analysis: This, Johns' first major work, broke from the Abstract Expressionist precedent of non-objective painting with his representation of a recognizable everyday object - the American flag. Johns built the flag from a dynamic surface made up of shreds of newspaper dipped in encaustic - with snippets of text still visible through the wax - rather than oil paint applied to the canvas with a brush. As the molten, pigmented wax cooled, it fixed the scraps of newspaper in visually distinct marks that evoked the gestural brushwork of the Abstract Expressionists of the previous decade. The frozen encaustic embodied Johns' interest in semiotics by quoting the "brushstroke" of the action painters as a symbol for artistic expression, rather than a direct mode of expression, as part of his career-long investigation into "how we see and why we see the way we do."

The symbol of the American flag, to this day, carries a host of connotations and meanings that shift from individual to individual, making it the ideal subject for Johns' initial foray into visually exploring the "things the mind already knows." He intentionally blurred the lines between high art and everyday life with his choice of seemingly mundane subject matter. Johns painted Flag in the context of the McCarthy witch-hunts in Cold War America. Then and now, some viewers will read national pride or freedom in the image, while others only see imperialism or oppression. Johns was one of the first artists to present viewers with the dichotomies embedded in the American flag. Johns referred to his paintings as "facts" and did not provide predetermined interpretations of his work; when critics asked Johns if the work was a painted flag, or a flag painting, he said it was both. As with other Neo-Dada works, the meaning of the artwork is determined by the viewer, not the artist.

Encaustic, oil, and collage on fabric mounted on plywood - The Museum of Modern Art, New York

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Content compiled and written by Rachel Gershman

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