“Witty and skillful, [Lichtenstein’s] pastiches represent the triumph of industry over inspiration.” Robert Hughes.
Roy Lichtenstein was born in New York where he studied at the Art Students League in 1939. From 1940 to 1949 he studied at Ohio State University, Columbus, interrupted for three years (1943 to 1946) with service in the US Army. After a brief spell teaching at Columbus, Lichtenstein moved to Cleveland, Ohio where he took on a number of odd jobs to support his painting. In 1957 he returned to teaching, first at New York State University, Oswego then in 1960 to Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
After passing through an Abstract Expressionist phase, Lichtenstein became best known as one of the leading figures in the Pop Art movement. With his one-man exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York in 1962, his work achieved instant success. Alongside artists such as Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist and Tom Wesselman, Lichtenstein took the distinctive style of the commercial art world as his inspiration. His paintings such as ‘The Kiss’ (1961) and ‘ Whaam!’ (1963) appropriated comic strip imagery, reproducing the primary colours and Benday dots of the cheap printing processes and replicating such subject matter as violent action and sentimental love. By the mid-1960s Lichtenstein was making Pop versions of paintings by modern masters such as Cézanne and Mondrian as well as producing screenprints. In the 1970s he moved into sculpture, mostly in polished brass and imitating the Art Deco forms of the 1930s. He also received several commissions for public places including ‘Mural With Blue Brushstrokes’ (1986) for the Equitable Building in New York.
Lichtenstein saw beauty and pathos in the comic strip art he reproduced. Critics admired his strength of composition and his power to communicate. His witty pastiches seem to represent the triumph of the modern, celebrating the imagery of mass culture.