1923 – 1997
Roy Lichtenstein was an American artist known for his paintings and prints which referenced commercial art and popular culture icons like Mickey Mouse. Composed using Ben-Day dots—the method used by newspapers and comic strips to denote gradients and texture—Lichtenstein’s work mimicked the mechanical technique with his own hand on a much larger scale. He was a leading figure in establishing the Pop Art movement, along with Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, and Jasper Johns. “I take a cliché and try to organize its forms to make it monumental. The difference is often not great, but it is crucial,” he once said of his work.
Born on October 27, 1923 in New York, NY, he studied under painting under Reginald Marsh at the Art Students League of New York after graduating from high school. Drafted by the US Army during World War II, he notably encountered the works of European masters and contemporary artists while stationed in France. After the war, he returned to America and completed his degree at Ohio State University, producing paintings in the vein of Abstract Expressionism. Lichtenstein began teaching art at Rutgers University during the late 1950s, meeting fellow faculty members involved in the New York art scene, including the performance artist Allan Kaprow. By the early 1960s, he had begun showing with Leo Castelli Gallery in New York, and made major breakthroughs with works such as Drowning Girl (1963), a satirical take on melodramatic pulp fiction of the era.
Themes of irony and cliché prevailed throughout the remainder of Lichtenstein’s career, as evinced in his Haystacks (1969), a take on the canonical series by Claude Monet. The artist died on September 29, 1997 in New York, NY. Today, his works are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Tate Modern in London.