James Albert Rosenquist was born in Grand Forks, N.D., on Nov. 29, 1933, bouncing around various locations in the midwest with his airplane mechanic father and his artistic mother. He studied at the University of Minnesota from 1952 to 1954. During his time studying, he worked as a contractor, painting gas station signs, storage tanks, and grain silos.
After receiving an associate's degree in studio art, he made a living as a billboard painter and received a scholarship to the Art Students League in NY, studying alongside future powerhouses in the art world.
During the course of his career, Mr. Rosenquist experimented with sculptural assemblage and environmental installations, and he sometimes attached three-dimensional objects to his pictures. But he remained mainly a representational painter.
In later years, some of his paintings approached a kind of futuristic, kaleidoscopic abstraction, but the play with different sorts of images and illusions persisted.
“Much of the aesthetic of my work comes from doing commercial art,” Mr. Rosenquist said. “I painted pieces of bread, Arrow shirts, movie stars. It was very interesting. Before I came to New York I wanted to paint the Sistine Chapel. I thought this is where the school of mural painting exists. You were painting things up close, like big chocolate cakes. In Brooklyn, I painted Schenley whiskey bottles two stories high, 147 of them over every candy store.”
Mr. Rosenquist helped define Pop Art during its' 1960s heyday through his bold, scaled montages of commercial imagery. His powerful graphic style was one that the general public widely and enthusiastically embraced.