New York artist Roy Lichtenstein was born in New York City on October 27, 1923, and grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. In the 1960s, Lichtenstein became a leading figure of the new art movement, alongside Andy Warhol. Inspired by advertisements and comic strips, Lichtenstein’s bright, graphic images parodied popular culture. He died in New York City on September 29, 1997.
For much of the 1950s, Lichtenstein, whose interest in Americana remained strong throughout his life, produced a range of work that blended his interest in American scenes (cowboys and Indians) with a touch that showed his reverence for European greats, such as Pablo Picasso. His body of work from this period also includes an interesting rendition of the famous painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware.”
He started experimenting with pop art in the early 1960s, not long after he’d arrived at Rutgers University, where he’d been hired to teach. His work was as much a commentary on pop culture as it was on Abstract Expressionism. His paintings, which drew heavily on familiar characters found in comic books and advertising, seemed to be a direct contrast to the heavy-handed, search-for-meaning pieces coming out of so much of the rest of the art world.
His best-known image from this period is Whaam!, which Lichtenstein produced in 1963, using a comic book panel from a 1962 issue of DC Comics’ All-American Men of War, as his inspiration. Later works included Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
By the late 1960s, Lichtenstein had stopped using comic book sources. His focus instead turned to creating paintings that seemed to either pay homage to or mimic the works of Picasso, Cezanne and others.
His art took other forms as well, such as the paintings of living rooms he made in the 1970s. A decade later he returned to sculpture, even producing a 20-foot-high statute of Columbus for the city of Genoa, Italy. He also produced a five-story-tall mural for the lobby of the Equitable Center in Manhattan.
Roy Lichtenstein currently has an exhibition in London at the Tate Modern. If by chance you’re taking a trip to London be sure to check it out.