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 Roy Lichtenstein  (1923 - 1997)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: pop imagery cartoon painting

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Roy Lichtenstein
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
From his studio in New York City, Roy Lichtenstein did cartoon inspired paintings that helped launch the Pop Art movement.  He was unique in that he developed a new visual language in an avant-garde style that was disruptive to viewers and yet was accessible and popular with them.  He also did innovative art work that incorporated many late 20th-century movements and addressed a number of social issues.

His thirty-five year career of public recognition was celebrated in 1993-94 by curators of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York with a large scale retrospective of his work.

He was born in Manhattan and went to high school there.  By age 14, he was taking art classes at the Parsons School of Design and also studied briefly with Reginald Marsh at the Art Students League in 1939.  He then attended Ohio State University where his major influence was Hoyt Sherman, whose figure-ground relationships inspired Lichtenstein's treatment of cliche subjects.

In 1943, he was drafted into the Army and served in Europe and then returned to Ohio State, completing his BFA and MFA and then teaching at that campus.  From Cleveland, Ohio, he made frequent trips to New York and started to exhibit there in 1949.  In the 1950s, he used various techniques of Abstract Expressionism, did figurative work, and like many of his generation, began employing pop art images. But he was searching for a style.

In 1957, he left Cleveland to teach in Oswego, New York, and in 1961, he began teaching at Rutgers University, where one of his colleagues, Allan Kaprow, used cartoon figures.  Through Kaprow, he met many renegade New York artists including Claes Oldenburg and Jim Dine; it was a circuitous return to the New York from where he had a long journey.

In 1962, he had a landmark exhibition at the Castelli Gallery that showed enlarged depictions of advertisements and comic strip images.  In fact, it was gallery owner Leo Castelli who, as a major promoter of the contemporary art scene, was a key person in launching his career.

Although Lichtenstein's pop paintings had widespread popular acceptance, he began in 1965 to do Abstract Expressionism, but in contrast to others in that style, he did work that was hard and static.  In the 1990s, he did large-scale abstract interiors, and he also worked in ceramics and enamelled steel.

Throughout his career, he appeared in many documentary films and did posters for entertainments including Bill Clinton's United States presidential campaign.

Lichtenstein's murals are in Dusseldorf, Germany; Tel Aviv, Israel; and New York City. He died unexpectedly on September 30, 1997 from viral pneumonia, having worked until the time of his death.

Sources include:
Art in America, "Roy Lichtenstein, 1923-1997"
Art in America, "Lichtenstein: Seeing Is Believing", Roni Feinstein
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Roy Lichtenstein was born in New York City on October 27, 1923.  His father, Milton, was a real estate broker and his mother was a homemaker.  He grew up across Central Park from the Guggenheim Museum.  He attended the Franklin School for Boys, graduating in 1940.  He studied under American Social Realist painter Reginald Marsh at the Art Students League and attended Ohio State University from 1940 through 1943.  He returned there in 1946 after having served in the armed services in Europe; he received his Masters in Fine Arts in 1949.  He taught at Ohio State University until 1951; was Assistant Professor at New York State University at Oswego and at Rutgers University in New Jersey until 1953.

Lichtenstein's greatest successes came with Pop Art.  He utilized blown-up comic strips, including the dots necessary in commercial printing (Benday dots) and the captions, which accompany comic strips.  He has studied drawing and painting and knew how to turn out the same kinds of works that other painters did.  His career is a contemporary inventory of modern art historical styles: Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, Neo-Plasticism, Futurism, Expressionism, all leading to the Abstract Expressionism on which he founded his own Pop work.

When he was at Rutgers, he fell into a milieu that would galvanize the direction of his art.  He met Allan Kaprow and other artists, namely Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, George Segal and Bob Whitman, whose audience-participation performances came to be called Happenings.  Unlike many other artists, he had no idea what to do with a movie or play, but he did enjoy what other people did with their Happenings.

In 1949, he married Isabel Wilson. They had two sons, David Hoyt and Mitchell Wilson. They were divorced in 1965. In 1968 he married Dorothy Herzka.

Lichtenstein died of pneumonia on Monday, September 29, 1997.


Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.


Sources include:

Obituary in Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, September 30, 1997

"A Few Good Colors Are Plenty" by Susan Morgan, Los Angeles Times Calendar Section, Sunday, January 30, 1994

"Wham! Blam! Pow! Roy Lichtenstein!" by Diane Waldman in ARTnews, November 1993

From the internet, artchive.com

Article by Peter Plagens in Newsweek Magazine, October 15, 1993


Biography from Denis Bloch Fine Art:
Roy Lichtenstein was born in New York City on October 27, 1923, the son of real estate broker Milton and homemaker-gifted pianist Beatrice Werner Lichtenstein. He grew up under no specific artistic influence - neither at home nor at school. But by the age of 14, Lichtenstein attended a painting class at Parson's School of Design every Saturday morning. In 1939 he studied at the Art Students League in New York and the following year at Ohio State University.

In 1943 his education was interrupted by three years of army service, during which he drew up maps for planned troop movements across Germany during World War II. Lichtenstein received his BFA degree from Ohio State University in 1946 and MFA degree in 1949 then began a period of working in (semi) Abstract Expressionism—the predominant art movement of the time.

He taught at Ohio State University until 1951 when he moved to Cleveland, OH to work as an engineering draftsman to support his growing family. He would later take teaching positions at New York State University and then Rutgers University in the early 1960s where he would meet artists Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg and George Segal who were experimenting with different kinds of art based on everyday life—known as Pop Art.

The drastic change in Lichtenstein's career came with his first painting in the style of a comic strip featuring Mickey Mouse. The initial stimulus is said to have come from one of his young children who pointed to an illustration of the famed mouse in a children’s book and challenged “I bet you can’t paint as good as that.”

Like other Pop artists, Lichtenstein adopted the images of commercial art but he did so in a highly distinctive manner. Inspired by the comic strips, he worked in a massive scale using stencils which produced rows of dots (benday dots) making the works look mass produced. One of his peculiarities was that he did not want his brush strokes visible—intentionally making the work look machine made.

In 1961 he visited Andy Warhol at the Factory where he saw the artist’s comic strip and consumer products paintings. The next year he had his first one man show at Leo Castelli Gallery in New York where it was a sold-out success enabling him to give up teaching the following year and devote himself entirely to painting. Through Castelli, Lichtenstein met fellow artists Robert Rauschenberg, Alex Katz and Jasper Johns and would eventually exhibit repeatedly with Warhol, Rosenquist, Dine, Rauschenberg and Johns among others. In 1963 he created his iconic imagery of D.C. Comics’ Girls’ Romances and Secret Hearts and exhibited at Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles.

Roy Lichtenstein produced a number of graphic prints for which he used different techniques: lithographs, screenprints, etchings and woodcuts, sometimes combining multiple techniques in one print. In 1994 a Lichtenstein print retrospective opened at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and later traveled to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and to the Dallas Art Museum. The show coincided with the release of ‘The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein: A Catalogue Raisonne’ by Mary Lee Corlett. The National Gallery in Washington, D.C. would become the largest repository of Lichtenstein’s prints when the artist gifted 154 prints from 1948-1993 and two books to the institution.

Roy Lichtenstein died of pneumonia on September 29, 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.

QUOTE:
"You know I get ideas like when I'm waking up in the morning or something like that and I kind of sometimes scribble them down, and then when I wake up, I realize that there's absolutely no way to create a visual counterpart of what I thought of that makes any sense."

Select Museum Collections:
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Guggenheim Museum, New York
Tate Modern, London
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC
National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles


Biography from GallArt.com:
Roy Lichtenstein American, (1923 - 1997)

Roy Lichtenstein is a pop art painter whose works, in a style derived from comic strips, portray the trivialization of culture endemic in contemporary American life. Using bright, strident colors and techniques borrowed from the printing industry, he ironically incorporates mass-produced emotions and objects into highly sophisticated references to art history.

Born in New York City in 1923, Lichtenstein studied briefly at the Art Students League, then enrolled at Ohio State University. After serving in the army from 1943 to 1946, he returned to Ohio State to get a master's degree and to teach.

In 1951, Lichtenstein came back to New York City and had his first one-man show. He also continued to teach, first at the New York State College of Education at Oswego, and later at Douglass College, a division of Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Through the 1950s, Lichtenstein used the basic techniques of abstract expressionism, but incorporated into his compositions such themes as cowboys and Indians and paper money. In 1961, however, while at Douglass College, impressed by the work of colleague Allan Kaprow, he turned to the use of comic-strip and cartoon figures by which he is known today. Flatten... sandfleas (1962, Museum of Modern Art) was the first important example of his new style.

Primary colors--red, yellow and blue, heavily outlined in black--became his favorites. Occasionally he used green. Instead of shades of color, he used the benday dot, a method by which an image is created, and its density of tone modulated in printing. Sometimes he selected a comic-strip scene, recomposed it, projected it onto his canvas and stenciled in the dots. "I want my painting to look as if it had been programmed," Lichtenstein explained.

Despite the fact that many of his paintings are relatively small, Lichtenstein's method of handling his subject matter conveys a sense of monumental size. His images seem massive.

Since 1962, he has turned to the work of artists such as Picasso, Mondrian, and even Monet as inspiration for his work. In the mid-1960s, he also painted sunsets and landscapes in his by-now familiar style. In addition, he has designed ceramic tableware and graphics for mass production.

"I'm interested in portraying a sort of anti-sensibility that pervades society," Lichtenstein says, summing up his work.

In 1967 his first museum retrospective exhibition was held at the Pasadena Art Museum in California. Also in this year his first solo exhibition in Europe was held at museums in Amsterdam, London, Bern and Hanover. He married his second wife, Dorothy Herzka in 1968.

In the 1970s and 1980s, 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 Center, Minneapolis), which incorporates five other previous works, fitted into the scene.

In the late 1970s, this style was replaced with more surreal works such as Pow Wow (1979, Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Aachen). In 1977, he was commissioned by BMW to paint a Group 5 Racing Version of the BMW 320i for the third installment in the BMW Art Car Project. In addition to paintings, he also made sculptures in metal and plastic including some notable public sculptures such as Lamp in St. Mary’s, Georgia in 1978, and over 300 prints, mostly in screen printing.

In 1996 the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. became the largest single repository of the artist's 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.

Biography from Art Cellar Exchange:
Roy Lichtenstein is remembered as one of the 20th century's greatest and most influential artists. An excellent painter and sculptor, Lichtenstein was a pioneer whose unique visual language became the transitional voice between the modern and post-modern art movements of the late 20th century. Ruth E. Fine, Curator of Modern Prints and Drawings for the National Gallery of Art, distinguishes four areas of Lichtenstein's work that became "potent forces in late 20th Century art" :

1)the breakdown of barriers between art and life, using everyday objects and subjects appropriate to consumer culture,
2)an exploration of art based on other art,
3)an interest in serial imagery, and
4)participation in the untraditional medium of printmaking.

Born in New York City in 1923, Roy grew up in a city that epitomized the ideals and machinations of modernism. He therefore gained a unique understanding of the affects of modern life on the solitary soul, the group, and the society at-large.

Growing up during the depression years and coming of age at the start of World War II, he was greatly influenced by the jazz clubs of Harlem and the boxing matches and carnivals of Coney Island. At the age of 14, he began classes at Parson's School of Design, and at 16 he studied at the Art Students League under Reginald Marsh, and by 1940 he was enrolled as a painting major at Ohio State University, Columbus. His education was interrupted from 1943-1946 by a European tour of duty during World War II.

He began his artistic career as an abstract expressionist painter exploring the ideas of spontaneity and the "epoch of crisis" inherent in action painting. As America began to move past the effects of World War II and into prosperous times, art no longer needed to be an emotional reaction to the effects of nuclear war and industrialization. Instead, it became a commentary on American prosperity and the commercial boom that resulted from the war efforts. Roy Lichtenstein's paintings and prints are the embodiment of this change.

By 1961 Roy began to use objects and images from mass culture and advertising. He adapted painting techniques and imagery from comic strips, commercial printing, stenciling, and projected images. Good Morning, Darling, , Whaam! (1963), and Big Painting VI (1965) are among his most popular comic strip paintings. These blowups of the original cartoon were reproduced by hand and brought him unparalleled attention. His art consisted of black outlines, stripes, dots, brushstrokes, flat fields, foils, and patterns such as canvas weave and wood grain.

The idea of appropriating imagery from popular culture transformed Lichtenstein into a leader of the New York City based pop art movement along with artists like Andy Warhol. During this time he also produced elegant sculptures that revived earlier forms of the 1930s, as seen in his Modern Sculpture with Glass Wave(1967).

Roy Lichtenstein's Bull Profile Series is one of his most popular series of his lithographic works. Completed in 1973, Lichtenstein's purpose during this period was to explore the "progression of an image from representation to abstraction". To illustrate this progression, Roy's Bull unfolds in 7 different phases. Beginning with a monochromatic palette, he gradually breaks down the form into many geometrical compliments, he sections the picture plane using areas of color and diagonal lines. These shapes become more abstract until they are simply flat planes of color. Once the deconstruction of the Bull has been completed, Roy returns to the original form with a new interpretation in primary colors that are indicative of the pop-art movements re-interpretation of commercial art.


Biography from Leslie Sacks Fine Art:
Roy Lichtenstein was born in New York in 1923. Next to Andy Warhol Roy Lichtenstein is considered to be the great artist of the Pop Art movement. The use of familiar subjects like comic strips, bank notes or advertising themes, makes the art of Roy Lichtenstein easily accessible.

Roy Lichtenstein began his art studies in 1939 at the Art Students League under urban scene painter Reginald Marsh. The artist continued his studies at Ohio State University where he was introduced to European Modernism and the works of Picasso, Klee and Kandinsky. His studies were interrupted by military service, but, after the war, Lichtenstein returned to Ohio State and completed a Masters in Fine Art degree in 1949.

As a central figure in the Pop Art movement of the 1960s, Roy Lichtenstein sought an anonymous style, removing all personal reference from his work to convey the appearance of mass production. Borrowed imagery from the pages of magazine advertisements and newspaper comic strips became the focus of his compositions. In discussing his work, Roy Lichtenstein once said: "All my art is in some way about other art, even if the other art is cartoons."

Working with stencils, Roy Lichtenstein developed a technique using rows of dots that mimicked the commercial printing patterns used in the production of comic books. This resemblance was further emphasized by Lichtenstein's selection of a palette of bright primary colors that replicated the chromatic range of comic books. In addition, the artist has produced several large scale sculptures commissioned for public places, most notably Mermaid in Miami Beach. Lichtenstein's unconventional paintings, regarded by many as beyond the bounds of fine art during the 1960s, are now considered icons of the Pop Art movement and have secured the artist's place in art history.

Roy Lichtenstein has had retrospectives at the Tate Gallery in London, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

Other than paintings and sculptures, the artist produced a number of prints for which he used different techniques: lithographs, screenprints, etchings and woodcuts. Often he combined these techniques in one print.

Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries (Artists, E-O):
New York-born Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein took a different artistic path than the slightly older Abstract Expressionists, yet he shared with many of them an early interest in Cubism. While in the M.F.A. program at Ohio State University in the late 1940s, Lichtenstein sought to understand the progress of modern painting by copying famous masters’ works; for example, he created skillful renderings of Pablo Picasso’s "Portrait of Gertrude Stein" and George Braque’s "Still Life with Pitcher." Lichtenstein completed his degree in 1949.

After several years of teaching at his alma mater, Lichtenstein moved to Cleveland in 1951. That year, he also mounted three solo exhibitions, the first at the Carlebach Gallery in New York. Lichtenstein relocated to New York after six years in Cleveland.

The insight that led to his Pop style occurred in 1961 when Lichtenstein realized that the visual devices popular-culture cartoonists used were very similar to those employed by Picasso and Klee, whom he had studied so intensively. Previously, Lichtenstein had reinterpreted source material using personal variations of Cubist or Constructivist techniques; he now drew from comic strips both subject matter and style.

In 1962, the year of his first solo exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York, Lichtenstein made his first Pop prints. The technical inventiveness of his work as a printmaker, combined with his exquisite draftsmanship, contributed to his growing reputation. In the mid-1960s, Lichtenstein’s status as one of the foremost American artists of his time was cemented. He continued to paint, sculpt, and make prints in his hallmark style until his death in 1997.

© Copyright 2008 Hollis Taggart Galleries

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