Renowned for his paintings inspired by comic strips, Roy Lichtenstein is recognised as one of the preeminent pioneers of American Pop art. Born in New York, Lichtenstein went on to receive a Masters of Fine Arts from Ohio State University in 1949. Whilst much of his early work was derived from Cubism and then Abstract Expressionism, it was in 1961 that Lichtenstein’s star began to rise with his first pop canvas, Look Mickey, and debut exhibition at Leo Castelli’s New York Gallery.
Lichtenstein’s practice was revolutionary at the time as it brought what was understood as ‘commercial art’ – advertisements, comics, everyday imagery – into the realm of fine art at a time when Abstract Expressionism was the prevailing artistic style. Lichtenstein recreated the commercial printing aesthetic by meticulously imitating the single-colour Ben-Day dots used by newspaper printing presses with stencils to construct his compositions.
Whilst Lichtenstein’s pop art was initially dismissed as “empty” and “vulgar”, famously forming the subject of a Life magazine article titled, “Is He the Worst Artist in the U.S.?”, he went on to represent the U.S. at the Venice Biennale in 1966 and received the National Medal of the Arts (U.S.A.) in 1995. Lichtenstein’s seminal contribution is reflected in his presence in major museum collections, with arguably his most famous double canvas, Whaam!, 1963, hanging at the Tate Modern, London.