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Biography of Roy Lichtenstein: His Life and Creative Path through the Time

25.10.2021
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Biography of Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein is one of the first American pop artists. He was criticised, but managed to gain notoriety.

All his masterpieces reflect different styles and show a new vision of Art Nouveau painting.Lichtenstein believed that abstractionism played a major role in his works and was as fascinating as the meaning of the painting itself. It was the artist’s pop art style from 1961 that was inspired by comics, although he has still been accused of plagiarism and lack of creativity. However, Roy Lichtenstein comic art later became major examples of pop art, and his technique involved mechanical reproduction and drawing by hand, which was also highly regarded.

We delve into Roy Lichtenstein’s biography and introduce you to the life and creative journey of one of his most famous artists.

When was Roy Lichtenstein born? And what materials did Lichtenstein use? You can find answers to these questions and many others in this article.

The Childhood of a Future Pop Art Genius

Roy Fox Lichtenstein was born in New York to a German-Jewish family of nationality. His date of birth may not be known to many – it was 27 October 1923. From birth Lichtenstein lived on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with his father Milton, who was a real estate broker, and his mother Beatrice, who was a housewife. Roy also had a younger sister, Renee. As a child, Lichtenstein loved listening to sci-fi radio programmes and visiting museums. One of these was the American Museum of Natural History. The up-and-coming artist drew and built model aeroplanes from a young age. From his teenage years, he began developing his skills in the field of comic art. The young Lichtenstein took a watercolour class at the Parsons School of Design, and later even started a jazz band at the school himself.

Roy Lichtenstein’s Education

Roy Lichtenstein Education

In 1940, young Lichtenstein began taking painting classes under Reginald Marsh at the Art Students’ League. He later enrolled at Ohio State University, where he studied drawing, design, botany, history and literature. He created sculptural animal figures in an art lesson as well as self portraits and still lifes inspired by the works of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. At the same university, he took classes with Hoyt Leon Sherman, which became the basis for Lichtenstein’s later conceptual work.

In early 1943, Roy was drafted into the army, where he also took an engineering course. He served as a clerk and draftsman for a platoon leader. In 1946 Roy returned home and finally received a degree in fine arts. Roy went on to graduate school and began a career in teaching. His work combined expressionism and biomorphic surrealism.

The Roy Lichtenstein mural was later exhibited in gallery shows. His paintings depicted musicians, street workers and racing car drivers. Birds and insects in a surrealist 1950s cartoon style were the next step, as well as depictions of knights and dragons.

In 1951, at his first solo exhibition in New York, the artist presented sculptures of kings and horses in wood, metal and all kinds of materials.

Personal Life of Roy Lichtenstein

At one of his exhibitions, the artist met the beautiful Isabel Wilson. The girl worked in a gallery and had similar interests to Lichtenstein. In 1949, the couple married. There were two children in the family, sons David and Mitchell. But in 1965 the couple divorced. Roy continued to build his personal life with gallery owner Dorothy Herzka.

A Lifetime of Creativity

Lichtenstein received a lot of engineering and drawing work. They focused on cowboy and Native American motifs. The artist created his rotating easel for convenience and drawing from every angle.

Lichtenstein The New York gallery

The New York gallery began exhibiting his masterpieces in 1952. And already in 1957, Lichtenstein became an assistant professor at SUNY Oswego. There, in contrast to the abstract expressionists, he began to paint figures. Some of his paintings depicted well-known cartoon characters like Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. Lichtenstein continued his teaching career, but now at Douglas College in Rutgers. There, Lichtenstein began to meet Claes Oldenburg, Lukas Samaras, Robert Watts, George Segal, Robert Whitman and other artists of the 1950s and 1960s. Each created their own works of art, but Lichtenstein was inspired by their focus on animation for kids.

In 1961, Roy Lichtenstein media created his first cartoon work. The Roy Lichtenstein technique of benday dots that he developed at this time combined aspects of drawing and mechanical reproduction.

Roy Lichtenstein first cartoon work

But from 1963 he began reproducing selected panels from a cartoon by hand and then projecting the drawing with a projector.

The artist’s history of fame was controversial. Some people were outraged by his work, while others called Lichtenstein one of the worst artists in America.

Nevertheless, the artist began to exhibit his work at major national exhibitions and articles. His cartoon-inspired paintings made Lichtenstein extremely important in the realm of pop art.

Whaam! 1963 Roy Lichtenstein

By the mid–1960s, Lichtenstein had begun creating large-scale murals, the first of which was created in 1964 for the World’s Fair in Flushing, Queens. His works often used industrial materials such as plexiglass, metal and shimmering plastic.

He even created ceramic sculptures and once created a series of paintings with giant, cartoonish brushstrokes covering the canvas.

What Commercial Technique Did He Imitate in His Paintings?

After all this, Lichtenstein began producing prints using the offset lithographic technique, which was more commonly used in commercial printing, and in 1969 he began a long-term partnership with Gemini G.E.L., a printing studio. In the 1970s he left New York for Southampton where, inspired by the Modernist masters, he created still life and works with different textures and materials.

Commercial Technique Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein sculpture became an important direction for the creator. He used bronze to create large painted sculptures of everyday objects, such as lamps, pitchers, and cups of steaming coffee. Lichtenstein also created a series of mirror paintings, inspired by the historic use of mirror images in painting to create space beyond the canvas, as well as abstract patterns representing mirrors in graphic art.

Remembrance of the Artist

Roy Lichtenstein became a well-known figure in the style of abstraction and expressionism. He became one of the most important figures in the pop art movement thanks to his comic book illustrations along with Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns.

Roy Lichtenstein Remembrance

Although his work is very recognizable today, he drew inspiration from some rather unusual movements at the time: Cubism, Surrealism and Expressionism. We now understand that his unconventional approach to popular culture had a significant impact on later generations of artists with the Roy Lichtenstein foundation. And Pop Art with his bio in turn strongly influenced the further course of Postmodernism.

Interesting Facts about the Life and Work of the Artist

  • Meaning and subject matter dominated Lichtenstein’s work, and his artwork style was incredibly suited to the format and themes of the works.
  • Another Roy Lichtenstein fact is that he drew inspiration from culture in general. From there, he only displayed his individual feelings in art.
  • Although at the beginning of the 1960s Roy Lichtenstein art was often accused of merely copying his paintings from caricatures, his method involved a considerable modification of the original images.
  • In his works the artist argued that all forms of communication, all messages emanating from his famous artworks, were conveyed through codes or languages. He may have realized the true value of codes from his early works, in which he used an eclectic range of contemporary painting.
  • Towards the end of his career, Lichtenstein used a variety of styles in his work and used many different types of media. He established a studio in Manhattan and became more interested in abstract expressionism and geometric abstraction.
  • In 1994, Lichtenstein was commissioned to create a 6 x 53-foot enamel mural on one of the biggest transitions on the platforms of the Times Square underground railway station. The fresco commemorates the story of New York City’s traffic system, the era of machinists and futuristic travelling.
  • He made a successful film while in Los Angeles. It was a series of landscape collages that Lichtenstein made between 1964 and 1966. The film was originally exhibited at LACMA’s Art and Technology exhibition in 1971, but then fell off the radar. When the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation was renewed, the film was shown in its original 35 mm format.
  • He was a cartoonist in the art world. Lichtenstein’s most well-known works are his cartoon series of comic book stories, which present a variety of fantastical and comical images. His style used bold, primary colors and graphic contours, all of which imitated the cartoon style. Two of the artist’s most famous artworks are “Waam!” and “Drowned Woman”, created in 1963.
  • Almost before his death in 1995, Roy Lichtenstein was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
  • Lichtenstein died of pneumonia in 1997 at the age of 73 in Manhattan, New York. But the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation still presents the artist’s work to the public, protecting his copyright, so that future generations can also appreciate the full story of the artist’s life and work.
  • The artist’s work is very valuable. At a 2015 auction, one painting by the artist, Nurse (1964), beat the artist’s market price record by selling for $95.4 million. This work was last auctioned in 1995 and was sold for $1.7 million.
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