Roy Lichtenstein was born in New York City on October 27th, 1923. He described his childhood as quiet and uneventful. His father was a realtor; his mother was a housewife.
Art was not taught at the school Roy attended, but when he turned fourteen he began taking Saturday morning classes at the Parson School of Design. After he graduated from high school in 1940 he attended the School of Fine Art at Ohio State University. He was drafted however in 1943 in the middle of his education at Ohio State. While he was in the military he served in Great Britain and Europe. When he returned to the U.S. in 1946, he completed his studies for his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree at Ohio State University in 1949.
After he got his degree he immediately began teaching at Ohio State and kept teaching there until 1951. He then taught at New York State University College, Oswego from 1957 until 1961 when he transferred and began teaching at Douglas College of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ he stopped teaching there in 1963. Later that year Roy moved to New York where he was commissioned by the architect Philip Johnson to produce large format painting for the New York State Pavilion at the Worlds Fair in New York. This year he also had his first one-man exhibition in Europe at the Galerie Ileana Sonnabend, Paris. He was given his first American retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Cleveland in 1963 also. Other exhibitions where Roy was represented in the sixties was the Venice Biennale in 1966, 1968, and 1970.
In 1967-1968 he had a retrospective at the Pasadena Art Museum, this was also shown throughout the world including Minneapolis. In 1969 he was given a retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. His career as an artist mainly started in 1951, he usually painted cowboys and Indians in various modern art styles. In 1957 he tried his hand at Abstract Expressionism.
What he is famous for though is his works based on comic strips. This all began with a painting he made of Mickey Mouse in 1960 for his children. By 1961 Lichtenstein was completely dedicated to the making of art from mass-produced, merchandising images. His comic-strip paintings, such as Good Morning, Darling, are blowups of the original cartoon characters, reproduced by hand, with the same technique of benday dots and bright primary colors used in printing.
This result was a blend of commercial art and abstraction. He tried to use brilliant colors outlined in black to emphasis the visual impact. These painting made him famous and the first one-man show of his comic strip paintings was in New York City in 1962. It was a major success and by 1968 the interest in his artwork was phenomenal.
He has the distinction of being the first American artist to have an exhibition at Londons Tate Gallery. Lichtenstein continued in this area for a while, taking subjects from sentimental Romance magazines. He enclosed speeches in balloons and made landscapes in the Comic-book style. He also dabbled in making statues during this time, which also recreated some comic strip type effects. During the 1970s and ’80s, his studio became a kind of factory, where assistants helped him to produce one variation after another. His creations during this period, especially of landscapes and still lifes, were a dramatic departure from earlier works that had used little brushwork.
During this second part of his career he can be described as becoming more of a modernist. He had influences from Pablo Picasso and other painters during this period. He dabbled in cubism and was constantly experimenting. These latter painting were not that much base don the comic strip type painting earlier, but still he did a lot of those paintings as his studio turned out more and more paintings, scupltures, and prints. Some more of his movement and exhibitions during this period were. He had a retrospective of his drawings in 1975 at the Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Paris, also shown at Berlin.
In 1979 he received his first public commission for a sculpture. He made the Mermaid for the Theater of the Performing Arts, Miami Beach, Florida. He painted the series American Indians. In 1981 the St.
Louis Art Museum organized a comprehensive retrospective of his work which toured the USA, Europe and Japan. In 1982 he rented a loft in New York in addition to his studio in Southampton. In 1985 he produced a mural for the Equitable Center, New York. In 1987 he had a retrospective of his drawings at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and at the Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, 1988. His latest large exhibition was his series of Landscapes in the Chinese style.
This and countless other painting and works also were made during the nineties. Sadly he died in Manhattan, Monday September 29th 1997, at the age of seventy-three. “He didn’t need to sign such things. His style was his signature. Lichtenstein could make a work of art a Lichtenstein of an apple on a table goldfish in a bowl or the sheen of a blank mirror or anything at all.
He kept on better. He was the nicest of nice painters. He was a one-man industry and utterly American, and already he is missed.”