Roy Lichtenstein was a leading figure of Pop Art, along with Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns. His signature style imitates comics, with thick lines, offset colors, and Ben-Day dots. His appropriation of commercial art elevated the status of “low art” during the 1960s. Behind the iconic images, here are the following facts:
1. Lichtenstein had a wide variety of interests and skills aside from art.
- As a child, he built model airplanes and listened to science fiction radio shows. He frequented the Museum of Modern Art and the American Museum of Natural History.
- Roy Lichtenstein also played clarinet and piano. He loved listening to jazz and formed his own band during his teenage years.
2. He began his career as a Surrealist and Abstract Expressionist painter.
- After the war and earning his Fine Arts degree, he mainly painted biomorphic figures. Various subjects include racecar drivers and street workers; insects and birds; and knights and dragons.
- He met his first wife Isabel Wilson at an exhibition. She was an assistant at the Ten-Thirty Gallery.
3. He served as an infantryman during World War II.
- Lichtenstein saw combat in Germany, France, and Belgium. He was also trained in piloting, engineering, and linguistics.
- His pilot training harks back to his most famous work, “Whaam!” The painting replicates a scene of aerial combat lifted from a panel in All-American Men of War #89.
4. Lichtenstein met the original artist of the “Whaam!” panel in the army.
- Irv Novick served as an officer at the boot camp where he trained at.
- Novick saw Lichtenstein’s skill as a draftsman and reassigned his duties. Lichtenstein went from mopping latrines to making posters and signs.
5. Lichtenstein developed his own techniques and innovations.
- During his work as a commercial artist, he fashioned a rotating easel. This allowed him to paint from any angle with ease.
- For his comic and cartoon works, he used an opaque projector to display his chosen panel on a canvas. He then traced the drawing with paint and added the Ben-Day dots with a stencil.
6. His son inspired his first Pop Art painting.
- Roy Lichtenstein created “Look Mickey” after his child pointed at an illustration from the Little Golden Book series. The boy said, “I bet you can’t paint as good as that, eh, Dad?”
- This was not Lichtenstein’s first use of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Years prior, he hid expressionist renditions of the two characters in his paintings.
By giving new context to commercial images, Roy Lichtenstein gave rise to the Pop Art movement. By combining painting and comic books, he closed the gap between “high” and “low” forms of art.
To learn more about other inspiring artists, check out their interesting facts here.