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Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein (October 27, 1923  September 29, 1997) was a prominent American pop artist, whose work borrowed heavily from popular advertising and comic book styles, which he himself described as being "as artificial as possible." Using oil and Magna paint his best known works, such as Drowning Girl (1963, Museum of Modern Art, New York), feature thick outlines, bold colors and Benday Dots to represent certain colors, as if created by photographic reproduction. Rather than attempt to reproduce his subjects, his work tackles the way mass media portrays them. His most famous image is arguably Whaam! (1963, Tate Gallery, London), one of the earliest known examples of pop art, featuring a fighter aircraft firing a rocket into an enemy plane with a dazzling red and yellow explosion. The cartoon style is heightened by the use of the onomatopoetic lettering WHAAM! and the boxed caption "I pressed the fire control... and ahead of me rockets blazed through the sky..." This diptych is large in scale, measuring 1.7 x 4.0 m (5'7" x 13'4"). Most of his best-known artworks are relatively close, but not exact, copies of comic book panels, a subject he largely abandoned in 1965. (He would occasionally incorporate comics into his work in different ways in later decades.) These panels were originally drawn by lesser known comic book artists such as Russ Heath, Tony Abruzzo, Irv Novick, and Jerry Grandinetti, who rarely received any credit. Artist Dave Gibbons, said of Lichtenstein's works: "Roy Lichtenstein's copies of the work of Irv Novick and Russ Heath are flat, uncomprehending tracings of quite sophisticated images." In response to complaints like that of Gibbons, Lichtenstein's obituary in The Economist noted these artists "did not think much of his paintings. In enlarging them, some claimed, they became static. Some threatened to sue him...But this is to miss the point of Roy Lichtenstein's achievement. His was the idea. "The art of today", he told an interviewer, "is all around us." During the seventies and eighties, his work began to loosen and expand on what he had done before. He produced a series of Artists Studios which incorporated elements of his previous work. A notable example being Artist's Studio, Look Mickey (1973, Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis) which incorporates five other previous works, fitted into the scene. In the late seventies this style was replaced with more surreal works such as Pow Wow (1979, Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst,Aachen). In addition to paintings, he also made sculptures in metal and plastic including some notable public sculptures such as Lamp in St. Marys, Georgia in 1978. His painting Torpedo...Los! sold at Christie's for $5.5 million in 1989, a record sum at the time, one of only three artists to have attracted such huge sums for art by a living artist. In 1995 Lichtenstein was awarded the Kyoto Prize from the Inamori Foundation in Kyoto, Japan. In 1996 the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC became the largest single repository of the Artists work when he donated 154 prints and 2 books. In total there are some 4,500 works thought to be in circulation. He died of pneumonia in 1997 at New York University Medical Center. Twice married, he was survived by his wife, Dorothy, whom he wed in 1968 and by his sons, David and Mitchell, from his first marriage.


 

 

 
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