Roy Lichtenstein

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Roy Lichtenstein was an American artist of the 20th century. He was born on October 27, 1923, in New York City to Milton and Beatrice Lichtenstein. He grew up in an affluent family, and became interested in art, comic books and science as a teenager. He took watercolor painting classes at Parsons School of Design in 1937, and then studied at the Art Students League in 1940. After graduating from high school in 1940, Lichtenstein then attended The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. He was drafted into the army during World War II and was stationed in Europe. After serving in the army for three years,  Lichtenstein returned home in 1946 to complete his studies, gaining both bachelors and masters degrees in fine arts. He did a brief stint at Ohio State University before moving on to Cleveland. Here he held several jobs, including a window display designer for a department store, an industrial designer and a commercial-art instructor.

By the late 1940s, he began exhibiting his work in art galleries. His paintings explored American history, mythology and folklore, particularly Native Americans and the American West. Breaking away from the tradition of abstract expessionism popular with leading artists of the time, such as Jackson Pollock, Lichtenstein began experimenting with popular culture as a subject for his art. Using materials from comic books and advertisements, Lichtenstein used a precise method for creating art which imitated a mass produced, printing process. One of his famous earlier works is “Whamm!” – inspired by a DC comics’ panel “All American Men of War”. A similar comic book inspired work was a massive picture of a laughing woman that he created for the 1964 World’s Fair held in New York City. Exploring themes of passion, violence and war, Lichtenstein began gaining popularity. His work was displayed in the Venice Biennale art show, and in 1969, Guggenheim Museum New York held a large exhibition of his work as well.

Lichtenstein became a leader in the Pop Art movement, which included artists like Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg. By the late 1960s, however, he shifted away from comic books and began to create paintings inspired by masters such as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. One of his new styles was “mirror painting”, which was done on sphere shaped canvas. He also focused on still life paintings and often used “optical illusions” to show a distorted version of reality. During the 1980s, he undertook large scale commissions, such as a 25 foot high sculpture for the Port Columbus International Airport in Ohio titled “Brushstrokes in Flight” as well as a multiple storey mural for the lobby of the Equitable Tower in New York. He also focused on nautical themes, and designed and painted the hull of the American yacht for the 1994 America’s cup yacht race.  In 1996, he held an exhibition displaying traditional Chinese landscapes which received widespread praise.

Roy Lichtenstein’s long career and work has honored him as one of the greatest American artists. He was committed to his craft until the end of his life, often spending 10 hour or more in his studio. He has received numerous honors and awards, such as National Medal of Arts awarded to him in 1995. He was married twice and had two sons. He died in New York in 1997 at the age of 73.

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