October 27, 1923 – September 29, 1997
Roy Lichtenstein was an American artist and leader in the 1960’s Pop Art movement. He developed an identifying style to his work derived from the shading techniques used in comic books of the time. His work reflects an extensive use of the Ben-Day dot. He was born in New York to an upper-middle-class Jewish family. Lichtenstein attended public school when he was young and then a private school when he entered high school. He was a fan of jazz and played the clarinet and piano. His mother, Beatrice Lichtenstein, exposed Roy and his sister to concerts, museums, and other displays of New York culture. Drafted into WWII, he served from 1943-1946. His military service ended with an honorable discharge.
Lichtenstein used the GI Bill to complete his BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts), which he began in 1940. He returned to Ohio State to complete his Bachelor’s and a Master’s in Fine Art. He completed his MFA in 1949. It would be over a decade before he would begin to make his mark in the field of modern art. Until then, Lichtenstein worked as a teacher at Ohio State, a commercial art instructor, window display designer, and industrial engineer.
Discovering His Style
The 1960s marked the beginning of Lichtenstein’s exploration into more pop culture themes. He moved from emotionally charged Abstract Expressionism into styles used in commercial art. It was at this time he began his comic book paintings and incorporation of the Ben-Day dot into his work. His direct contemporary was Andy Warhol, and his successful predecessors were Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. His first work in this genre was “Look, Mickey!” He took the idea and image from the Donald Duck book titled Lost and Found. His approach stimulated controversy and several insults. Some even went so far as to call him a copier.
Lichtenstein’s most influential period was between 1961-1965. This time frame is when he started to develop his style a produced his most recognized early works. From this era came Drowning Girl, Whamm!, and Crying Girl. In January 2017, Masterpiece sold for $165 million his most highly valued work. He was a highly productive artist who spent much time in his studio and worked until his death. His work is found throughout the world and is highly recognizable. For someone who created such an uproar, he became a leader in the genre of Pop Art.