Roy Lichtenstein
Year, Birthplace 1923, United States
Year, Place of death 1997, United States
As an adolescent, Roy Lichtenstein was passionate about drawing and jazz. He took drawing and painting classes and was so impressed by Picasso's Guernica, which he saw in 1939, when the work was deposited at the MoMA in New York. In 1940, he frequented the Art Students League, and then continued his studies at the Ohio State University in Columbus, which had an excellent reputation for art teaching. He began to create abstract paintings based on landscapes, still lifes and life model studies. His education was interrupted by military service. At the end of 1944, he was recruited by the army and went to serve in Europe, where he stayed from when the bridge at Remagen over the Rhine was taken by the Allies until the liberation of Leipzig by American troops. He continued all the while to draw and paint. After spending some weeks in Paris at the end of 1945, he returned to the United States and resumed his university studies. After getting his degree, he taught art in Cleveland and later worked in a variety of jobs including as a decorator, draughtsman, designer and then an industrial art instructor (a post he held until 1964). At this time he painted semi-abstract geometrical canvasses inspired by cubism with typical American subjects and also began to exhibit. His first solo exhibition took place in New York in 1951 at the Carlebach Gallery, where he showed recycled wooden and metal assemblages. He gradually began to introduce the titles of the paintings into his compositions and then to introduce photographic collages. In 1956, he made a lithograph called Ten Dollar Bill, which was his first 'proto-pop’ piece. His painting, which had until then been abstract expressionist, evolved to include interpretations of comic strip art. In 1960, through Allan Kaprow, a university colleague who had introduced him to happenings and installations, he met Claes Oldenburg and George Segal. The following year, he produced his first pop-art style works, showing comic strip scenes and advertising images. He did this by imitating printing techniques, in particular by reproducing – using templates and enlargements – the series of dots that makes up the image and giving his characters voices by using speech bubbles (Look Mickey, 1961). He started with a drawing, which he then photographed. He projected an enlargement of the slide that he traced onto the canvas and used only one or two colours to better imitate the printing process. In the autumn of 1961, Lichtenstein showed his works at Leo Castelli's gallery in New York, with which he signed a contract. The gallery then introduced him to Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. After this solo exhibition at Leo Castelli Gallery in 1962, he became very successful. Together with Jim Dine, Yves Klein, Oldenburg, James Rosenquist, Mimmo Rotella, Segal, Jean Tinguely and Andy Warhol, he took part in the New Realists exhibition (at the Sidney Janis Gallery, New York), which presented the pop and Nouveau Réalisme movements working on both sides of the Atlantic for the first time. He chose comic strip themes (the speech bubbles disappeared in 1966) and reinterpreted works by Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian. Lichtenstein became a celebrity, and began to receive commissions and hold exhibitions all over the world. He also staged his first exhibition in Paris (at the Ileana Sonnabend Gallery in 1963). His themed series followed on from each other: pin-ups, war scenes, screaming or crying women, desolate landscapes, classical architecture, brush strokes, golf balls, explosions, mirrors… He incorporated acrylic glass and metal in some of his works (Explosion #1, 1965) and created pieces in ceramic, especially porcelain, and multiple lithographs on paper based on other works. His first museum solo exhibition took place at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1966. This was followed by a retrospective in 1967 organised by the Pasadena Art Museum which was then shown in Minneapolis, Amsterdam, London, Berne and Hanover. Another retrospective began in 1969 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and then moved on to four other American museums. In 1970, Lichtenstein settled in Southampton, New Jersey, where his studio allowed him to dedicate himself to large murals (such as the one for the University of Düsseldorf's School of Medicine). Over the following years, revisiting the history of art, he paid tribute to Claude Monet, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne, Mondrian, Picasso and the representatives of futurism, purism, surrealism, and German expressionism by reinterpreting their works. In the 1980s, he returned to broad expressionist brush strokes that melded with his meticulous evocations. Commissions came from all over the world, including several for monumental sculptures in the form of brush strokes. AC