Roy Lichtenstein Artist Biography
Roy Lichtenstein was a prominent American Pop artist; painter, lithographer, and sculptor.His use of bright colours and techniques borrowed from commercial sources, ironically incorporated into his highly sophisticated references to art history, defined the enduring legacy of Pop Art. Lichtenstein was born in New York City in 1923. He became interested art and design whilst at school. An avid jazz fan, he would often attend concerts at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and draw portraits of the musicians. He studied briefly at the Art Students League before enrolling in a Fine Art degree at Ohio State University. He was drafted into the US army in 1943 and after leaving service in 1946, returned to Ohio State to get his master`s degree and teach. In 1951, he had his first solo exhibition at the Carlebach Gallery in New York. At this time his work fluctuated between Cubism and Expressionism. By 1957, he became a late convert to the Abstract Expressionist style. He started teaching at Rutgers University in 1960 and was heavily influenced by fellow teacher Allan Kaprow. This environment helped reignite his interest in proto-pop imagery. When he painted his first Pop Art picture in 1961 ; "Look Mickey", with Mickey Mouse standing on a dock while Donald Duck hooks a fish he called on his years of tuition. Lichtenstein is now famous for his use of cartoon strips from American comic books, which had a wide readership in the 1950s. He admired the skill of the commercial artists who could condense complex stories of love and war into cartoon form. Their commercial techniques inspired him and he restricted his palette to imitate the four colours of printers inks. Primary colours, heavily outlined in black, became his favourites. Occasionally he would use green. Instead of traditional shading and tones of colour, Lichtenstein used the benday dot, a method by which an image is created, and its density of tone modulated in the printing process. "I want my painting to look as if it had been programmed," Lichtenstein explained. By his own admission, Lichtenstein was intensively derivative, borrowing from his extensive archive of comic-book clippings, packaging, postcards, newspaper advertisements and yellow pages. From 1962, he stopped using comic book sources and turned his attention to the works of artists such as Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, Vincent Van Gogh, and Claude Monet. He created paintings that seemed to either pay homage to or mimic their masterpieces, like "Bedroom at Arles" (1992), for example, a reworking of Van Gogh`s "Bedroom in Arles" (1888). In 1967, Lichtenstein`s first museum retrospective exhibition was held at the Pasadena Art Museum in California. In the same year his first solo exhibitions in Europe were held in museums in Amsterdam, London, Bern and Hannover. On seeing Lichtenstein`s paintings, critics complained of the lack of "artistic" skill. People were offended by his use of commercial subject matter and the apparent crudeness of his painting techniques. For Lichtenstein, his style was a deliberate ploy to use those things that are useable, forceful, and vital about commercial art. Although best known as a painter, Roy Lichtenstein worked in a variety of media: sculpture, murals, prints and ceramics. He produced a 20-foot-high statue of Columbus for the city of Genoa, Italy, and a five-story-tall mural for the lobby of the Equitable Center in Manhattan. He also designed ceramic tableware and graphics for mass production. Roy Lichtenstein continued to stay committed to his craft even toward the end of his life, often spending at least 10 hours a day in his studio. In 1995, he received the National Medal of Arts. He died of pneumonia in 1997 at New York University Medical Center. Roy Lichtenstein played a critical role in subverting the skeptical view of commercial styles and subjects. By embracing "low" art such as comic books and popular illustration, Lichtenstein became one of the most important figures in the Pop art movement. His re-imagining of popular culture through the lens of traditional art history has remained a considerable influence to later generations of artists.