Roy Lichtenstein was an American painter who stood at the origins of Pop-Art and was its eminent representative along with Andy Warhol. Lichtenstein’s paintings were close in style with comic-book cartoons although the artist didn’t agree with it. His most known works are Whaam!, Drowning Girl and Oh, Jeff...I Love You, Too...But.
Roy Lichtenstein's family belonged to the an upper-middle-class and was Jewish. His parents were born in United States – the father came from Brooklyn, New York, and the mother was born in New Orleans and raised in Connecticut.
Roy Lichtenstein was born in Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States on October 27, 1923. He was the first-born of Milton Lichtenstein, a real estate broker for Lichtenstein & Loeb and co-owner of Garage Realty, and Beatrice Lichtenstein, a homemaker.
Milton took part in World War I. Beatrice gave piano lessons and it was she who introduced her children to the culture sending them to different concerts and museums in New York City, such as the American Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Modern Art.
Roy revealed his artistic faculties in early childhood. The boy adored drawing and sculpting as well as designing model airplanes, he played piano and clarinet, and was fascinated by jazz which he often listened to at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Lichtenstein even had a jazz band.
The young Lichtenstein always sketched performing artists, for example, the jazz musicians and the actors of the show Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin at the Alvin Theater in 1935.
Roy Lichtenstein started to attend New York kindergarten in 1928.
Three years later, he entered New York's college preparatory school, Dwight School. Then, Roy pursued his studies at the Franklin School for Boys in New York Сity, a private junior high and high school where he studied French and Latin.
While in school, Lichtenstein attended different painting classes, including watercolor classes at the New York School of Fine and Applied Art (now Parsons School for Design) and the summer classes at the Art Students League of New York under Reginald Marsh where the boy studied painting and drawing from the model. Lichtenstein graduated from the high school on June 1940.
The autumn of the same year, Roy Lichtenstein entered the Ohio State University. He interrupted his studies for three years to serve in the World War II. While the military service, Lichtenstein attended a French Language and Civilization course at the Sorbonne in Paris through the Army’s civilian agency AEP program. He assisted as well the engineering training at DePaul University, Chicago and one-month pilot-training program according to the Army Special Training Program.
One of the teachers at the Ohio University, Hoyt L. Sherman, had a great influence on Lichtenstein's artistic mindset. Roy Lichtenstein graduated from the university in 1946 and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
A year later, to pursue his studies at the university, Lichtenstein enrolled at the Graduate School of Fine and Applied Arts where he received the Master of Arts degree with the thesis “Paintings, Drawings, and Pastels”.
Later, Roy Lichtenstein was awarded by multiple Honorary Doctorate degrees from different Universities, including the California Institute of the Arts (1977), Southampton College (1980), Ohio State University (1988), Bard College, Royal College of Art (1993) and the George Washington University (1996). All of them were in fine arts, except the degree in humanities from Ohio State University.
Roy Lichtenstein’s career started from the military service at United States Army during the World War II. While in the army, Lichtenstein had different duties in many posts. So, he served at first as an orderly and became a two-star major general. He also dealed with painting tasks working as a draftsman, for example, drawing maps. For some time, Lichtenstein read the lectures on the War in Europe and the Pacific at the Army’s Information and Education School. He left the army in the rank of Private First Class as a Draftsman.
Lichtenstein became an instructor of the School of Fine and Applied Arts faculty at Ohio State University in 1946 and held this position till 1951 when he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, United States and organized his own studio at the Music Center Building. The same year, his first solo show took place at the Carlebach Gallery in New York and was followed by the show at John Heller Gallery in New York a year later.
However, his paintings didn’t bring Roy a lot of income in Cleveland, so he was obliged to have several part-time jobs, such as industrial draftsman, furniture designer, window dresser and even mechanic. The subjects of his artworks during this period were related with the American West and had the traces both of Cubism and Expressionism.
The painter returned to his teaching activity in 1957 when he came back to New York City and was hired to teach the industrial design as an assistant professor at the State University of New York at Oswego.
In September 1960, Lichtenstein changed his post of an assistant professor at the State University of New York to the equal position at Douglass College of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey by receiving an invitation from the new head of the art department of the educational institution, Reginald Neal. There, in New Jersey, he organized the studio.
This time, the artist began hiding images of comic strip figures (such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Bugs Bunny) in his paintings, the classic examples of which are Popeye and Look Mickey. For his early pop paintings, Lichtenstein as well used some typical things of commercial art: golf balls, athletic shoes, hot dogs, and other consumer products. The first of such paintings was the Emigrant Train after William Ranney (1951) or another work – Girl with Ball (1961) in the cheesecake pose. The pop paintings were presented at Castelli gallery from February 10 to March 3 in 1962 and made Lichtenstein known.
After, he left the post at Rutgers University and devoted himself to painting. Then, the artist started to design mass-products, such as a shopping bag for the American Supermarket show in 1964. Lichtenstein also created versions of paintings by Piet Mondrian, Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington, and Claude Monet's haystacks.
In the late 1960s Lichtenstein’s paintings became more abstract.
During the 1970th, Roy Lichtenstein continued his experiments with new styles which lead to the appearance of "mirror" paintings series. The works consisted of sphere-shaped canvases with areas of color and dots. One of these, Self-Portrait (1978), is similar to the work of artist René Magritte in its playful placement of a mirror where a human head should be. At the same time, Lichtenstein also produced several still lifes in different styles. The artist created for Los Angeles County Museum of Art a film of marine landscapes called Three Landscapes (1970).
In the 1980th and 1990th, Lichtenstein began to mix and match styles. Other paintings treat, in a similarly stylized and often ironic manner, the subjects and forms characteristic of cubism, fauvism, surrealism, abstract expressionism, and other modern art movements. A series of large canvases from the early 1990's depicts room interiors, based on images from telephone directories. A series of sea-themed works followed.
The last years of his life, Roy Lichtenstein worked on multiple murals, as well as on public sculptures commissioned in Miami Beach, Columbus, Minneapolis, Paris, Barcelona and Singapore.
Among Roy Lichtenstein’s works there are paintings reflecting major national news in the political field. There are Bobby Kennedy and Gun in America, both of 1968, which appeared by the commission from TIME magazine to be used as the covers. The first one was created during the Kennedy’s presidential campaign, the latter – on Kennedy's assassination. Gun in America caused a debate on the gun violence and gun control.
Roy Lichtenstein was, he said apropos his attitude to experiments in 1963, "anti-contemplative, anti-nuance, anti-getting-away-from-the-tyranny-of-the-rectangle, anti-movement and light, anti-mystery, anti-paint-quality, anti-Zen, and anti all of those brilliant ideas of preceding movements which everybody understands so thoroughly."
Many of Lichtenstein paintings touched the question of fetishisation by depecting femme fatales as well as the abandonned women.
"Art doesn't transform. It just plain forms."
"I think we're much smarter than we were. Everybody knows that abstract art can be art, and most people know that they may not like it, even if they understand there's another purpose to it."
"Pop Art looks out into the world. It doesn't look like a painting of something, it looks like the thing itself."
"I'm not really sure what social message my art carries, if any. And I don't really want it to carry one. I'm not interested in the subject matter to try to teach society anything, or to try to better our world in any way."
"I like to pretend that my art has nothing to do with me."
"Personally, I feel that in my own work I wanted to look programmed or impersonal but I don't really believe I am being impersonal when I do it. And I don't think you could do this."
"I kind of do the drawing with the painting in mind, but it's very hard to guess at a size or a color and all the colors around it and what it will really look like."
"I'm interested in what would normally be considered the worst aspects of commercial art. I think it's the tension between what seems to be so rigid and cliched and the fact that art really can't be this way."
"Picasso's always been such a huge influence that I thought when I started the cartoon paintings that I was getting away from Picasso, and even my cartoons of Picasso were done almost to rid myself of his influence."
"I don't think that I'm over his influence but they probably don't look like Picassos; Picasso himself would probably have thrown up looking at my pictures."
"In America the biggest is the best."
Phi Sigma Delta of the Ohio State University
National Institute of Arts and Letters
May 23, 1979
American Academy in Rome
March 15, 1989 - May 15, 1989
Royal Academy of Arts
May 23, 1994
Quotes from others about the person
“"Roy's work was a wonderment of the graphic formulae and the codification of sentiment that had been worked out by others. The panels were changed in scale, color, treatment, and in their implications. There is no exact copy." Jack Cowart, executive director of the Lichtenstein Foundation.
"Lichtenstein did no more or less for comics than Andy Warhol did for soup." Art Spiegelman, an American cartoonist.
"Lichtenstein took a tiny picture, smaller than the palm of the hand, printed in four color inks on newsprint and blew it up to the conventional size at which 'art' is made and exhibited and finished it in paint on canvas." Eddie Campbell, Scottish comics artist and cartoonist.
"I would say 'copycat'. In music for instance, you can't just whistle somebody else's tune or perform somebody else's tune, no matter how badly, without somehow crediting and giving payment to the original artist. That's to say, this is 'WHAAM! by Roy Lichtenstein, after Irv Novick'." Dave Gibbons, an English comics artist.
"If an artist can't do anymore, then he should just quit; and an artist ought to be able to change his style without feeling bad. I heard that Lichtenstein said he might not be painting comic strips a year of two from now . I think that would be so great, to be able to change styles. And I think that's what's going to happen; that’s going to be the whole new scene." Andy Warhol, an American painter.”
Rembrandt, Honoré Daumier, Pablo Picasso
In the childhood Roy Lichtenstein liked such radio programs as The Shadow, Jack Armstrong, Flash Gordon and Mandrake the Magician.
Music & Bands
Roy Lichtenstein was married twice. His first wife became Isabel Wilson on June, 12, 1949. She was an assistant director at the Ten-Thirty Gallery in Cleveland, Ohio, United States who had divorced an artist Michael Sarisky. The couple had lived together for six years and had two sons. Their names were David Hoyt Lichtenstein, born on October 9, 1954, and Mitchell Wilson Lichtenstein, born on March 10, 1956.
Lichtenstein met his second wife, Dorothy Herzka, a gallery employee at the Paul Bianchini Gallery, New York, in 1964 when he took part at the American Supermarket show. Dorothy was his partner till the end of his life.
Whaam! The Art and Life of Roy Lichtenstein
The book tells about the life of the great Pop Art painter Roy Lichtenstein, illustrated with his most famous artworks.
Susan Goldman Rubin evocatively explores Roy Lichtenstein’s work and life and his groundbreaking influence on the art world
Roy Lichtenstein: Drawing First: 50 Years of Works on Paper
Written in close collaboration with the Roy Lichtenstein Estate and Foundation, this monograph presents an extraordinary selection of over 200 works on paper by the American artist, from the National Gallery of Washington, DC; the MoMA and the Whitney Museum, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as public and private European and American collections. This volume provides the reader with a unique perspective for getting to know and appreciate the artist’s oeuvre through the “first works,” namely the original ideas that were to be the source of inspiration for his great, world-famous masterpieces. The works on paper are also paired with some important paintings and sculptures, as well as a rich selection of photographs documenting the artist at work.
The volume includes texts by Danilo Eccher, Dorothy Lichtenstein, Bernice Rose, Jack Cowart, Thomas Zacharias (“Lichtenstein Draws”), and Andrea C. Theil, a chronology (by Clare Bell), and a list of exhibitions in Italy
Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective
Presenting over 130 paintings and sculptures, as well as over thirty seldom- or never-before-seen drawings and collages, this book examines all periods in Lichtenstein's career, going well beyond his brushstrokes and the classic Pop romance and war cartoon paintings that made him famous.
The book features exciting new scholarship by an international team of distinguished curators, critics, and art historians. Essays by Yve-Alain Bois, Chrissie Iles, and Stephen Little, among others, give special consideration to Lichtenstein's historical influences, from Picasso and Cubism through Surrealism, Futurism, and British Pop. Contributions by James Rondeau and Sheena Wagstaff evaluate the artist's abstract work and late nudes. Complemented by photographs of the artist and his seminal exhibitions, the essays examine the various styles and subjects featured in paintings created throughout his lifetime. The inclusion of a complete chronology of Lichtenstein's life and work – compiled by Clare Bell of the Lichtenstein Foundation – makes this retrospective the most authoritative publication on the artist since his death in 1997
Roy Lichtenstein: Between Sea and Sky
Guild Hall hosts an extraordinary gathering of the Lichtensteins’ works in the genre of seascape beginning with his Pop-inspired explorations of setting suns along with a recreation of his since destroyed Super Sunset billboard commission (1967). Other works in the show include his experimental optical collages and films from the mid to late 1960s to his gently calibrated brushstroke water views in paintings and prints of the 1980s culminating with his 1990s water lily series in homage to the Nymphéas of Claude Monet.
The publication also includes an interview between Avis Berman and Lichtenstein s assistant, James de Pasquale on his recollections of working with the artist in the 1970s on his landscapes in his studio in Southampton, New York.
The catalogue features a biography and chronology with rarely seen photographs of the artist at work in his various studios