Occupation: Painter, Sculptor, Print-Maker
Movement: Pop Art
“Takka Takka”, 1962
“Drowning Girl,” 1963
“Okay Hot-Shot Okay!,” 1963
“Head of Girl,” 1964
“Head with Red Shadow,” 1965
“Artist’s Studio No. 1 (Look Mickey),” 1973
“Pow Wow,” 1979
“Amerind Figure,” 1981
“Reflections on Crash,” 1990
“Collage for Nude with Red Shirt,” 1995
Roy Lichtenstein was an American painter, print-maker, sculptor and a leading figure of the Pop Art movement. He is best known for his graphic work based on comic strips and advertising, parodying both the art world and larger popular culture.
Early Life and Education
Born in New York City in October 1923, Roy Fox Lichtenstein’s father was a successful real estate developer and mother a homemaker. The family belonged to America’s burgeoning upper class Jewish community and lived on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where Lichtenstein grew up immersed in science and comic books. He attended public school till 1935 and then transferred to the Franklin School for Boys for the remainder of his education.
Lichtenstein was an ardent fan of jazz music, often sneaking into Harlem’s Apollo Theater to draw portraits of the musicians and their instruments. He began taking classes at the Parsons School of Design at the age of 14, focusing on watercolor techniques, before enrolling at the Art Students League to study under realist painter Reginald Marsh in the summer of 1940.
After graduating high school, he was admitted to the Ohio State University in Columbus where they offered degrees in fine art as well as various studio courses. His college career was cut short, however, by the outbreak of World War II. Lichtenstein was drafted and called to service in Europe.
He returned to university in 1946 to study under Hoyt L. Sherman and earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in fine arts. After a brief interlude as a teacher at his alma mater, he moved to Cleveland to design window-displays for a department store, and later took up freelance assignments in industrial design. During his time in Cleveland, he met Isabel Wilson, the former wife of artist Michael Sarisky, and they married in 1949, two years before Lichtenstein’s debut exhibition at the Carlebach Gallery in New York.
Development as an Artist
For six years, he lived in Cleveland with his family, becoming a father for the first time in 1954, and then again in ’56. And he continued to paint, developing a style derived from commercial printing and comic books, at once sardonic of modern American life and referential to art history. He was offered a teaching position at the State University at Oswego and left Cleveland for upstate New York in 1958.
Rutgers University invited Lichtenstein to become a faculty member in 1960. His friendship with fellow teacher Allan Kaprow helped revive the artist’s interest in Proto-pop imagery and, during this period, he began experimenting with Abstract Expressionism, integrating hidden images of popular cartoon characters into his abstract canvases. The Leo Castelli Gallery began exhibiting his work the following year, eventually leading to a solo show focusing on isolated household objects in 1962. The paintings sold out before they were even open to the public. Amidst his sudden success, his marriage broke up and the couple divorced in the mid-1960s.
Prime of His Career
Lichtenstein’s work became increasingly popular through the 1960s. The refusal to reflect the inner life of the artist and instead work within the impersonal, mechanical style of commercial printing was seen as a commentary on the new consumerism of contemporary America.
He used a combination of oil and magna paint to create an illusion of photographic reproduction in paintings such as “Whaam!” and “Drowning Girl”, which are probably his most famous works from this period. There was a sense of the subversive in his deadpan humor and the fact that his career was built on a series of mass-produced images. He became a recognized leader in the Pop Art movement along with Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg, although critics debated the originality and value of his work. Nonetheless, he remained in demand amongst art dealers and collectors alike.
From 1970 onwards, Lichtenstein divided his time between New York and Southampton, where he had purchased a carriage house with an ocean view the previous year. His lived the rest of his life in relative seclusion, following various creative impulses disparate from his previous work, including “The Modern Paintings” series, “Still Life” and “Mirrors”. He received a number of large-scale sculptural commissions in the 1980s, most notably the 4.5-meter high “Brushstrokes in Flight” for the international airport in Columbus.
He died of pneumonia in September 1997 after weeks of hospitalization at the New York University Medical Center. He left a series of unfinished nudes.
1923 - Born in New York
1940 - Art Students League, New York
1943 - Joins the US Army
1944-45 - Serves as a draftsman and artist. Division is shipped to England, France, Belgium, and Germany.
1946 - Honorable discharge from the army as Private First Class, with many honours
1946 - Ohio State University, Columbus
1949 - Ohio State University, Columbus
1995 - National Medal of the Arts
1996 - Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, George Washington University, Washington DC
1997 - Dies in New York
1962 - Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
1962 - Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
1962 - Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena
1964 - Gallery Ileana Sonnabend, Paris
1966 - Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland
1969 - Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
1975 - Centre National d'Art Contemporain, Paris
1975 - Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin
1987 - Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston
1987 - Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt
1994 - Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
1998 - Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
2001 - Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York
2001 - Gagosian Gallery, New York
2001 - Leo Castelli, New York
2002 - Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki
2002 - Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt
2002 - Galerie Terminus, Munich
2002 - Tate Liverpool, Liverpool
2003 - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
2003 - Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg
2003 - Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
2010 - National Gallery of Art Washington, D.C.
2010 - Museo Triennale, Milan
2010 - Gagosian Gallery, New York
2010 - Museum Ludwig, Cologne
2010 - Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
2011 - Gallery Tagboat, Tokyo
2011 - Gagosian Gallery, Hong Kong
2011 - Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
2011 - Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
2011 - Galerie Fluegel-Roncak, Nuremberg
2011 - Albertina, Vienna
2011 - Ludwig Galerie Schloß Oberhausen, Oberhausen
2012 - The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
2012 - QUT Art Museum, Brisbane
2012 - The Art Institute of Chicago, ChicagO
2012 - Gagosian Gallery, New York
2013 - Fluegel-Roncak Gallery, Nuremberg
2013 - Hood Museum of Art, Hanover
2013 - Tate Modern, London
2013 - Acquavella Galleries, Inc., New YorK
2013 - Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venic
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla
Polk Museum of Art, Lakeland
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis
Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery, Nashville
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven
Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel
Tate Modern, London
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt/Main
Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna
National Gallery of Canada - Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa
Roy Lichtenstein: The Artist at Work by Lou Ann Walker
Roy Lichtenstein: Meditations on Art by Gianni Mercurio and Robert Pincus-Witten
Roy Lichtenstein by Diane Walden
Roy Lichtenstein by Gail Stavitsky and Twig Johnson
Roy Lichtenstein: Some Kind of Reality by David Sylvester
Roy Lichtenstein: Still Lives by John Wilmerding