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Roy
Lichtenstein

Discover art for sale. Buy and sell prints & editions online by Roy Lichtenstein. First arriving to fame with his reproductions of comic book panels, it was Lichtenstein's depictions of contemporary culture that secured his status as a true Pop artist.

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Biography

A key pillar of the Pop Art movement Roy Lichtenstein redefined Contemporary art with his signature comic-book and advertisement inspired style. His distinctive artistic style, inspired by comic books, advertising and consumerism in post-war America, remains powerfully relevant today.

Beginnings

Roy Fox Lichtenstein was born in New York on 27 October 1923. As a child, he visited museums and concerts with his mother and younger sister, developing a lifelong love of jazz and art. He studied painting and drawing under American painter Reginald Marsh and later enrolled at Ohio State University, where he trained as a classical painter. After serving briefly in the US army, Lichtenstein went on to teach at Ohio State University. He exhibited throughout the 1950s but struggled to find his style.

First Paintings

Lichtenstein made his breakthrough Pop Art work, Look Mickey, in 1961, when he was 37 years old. The painting was based on an illustration from the book Donald Duck Lost And Found, owned by one of Lichtenstein’s sons. It marked the first time Lichtenstein fused painting with pop culture. He would later remember the direction as 'brave, risky and so far from anything I’d been taught in art schools. It was saying something about real life, and it wasn’t done as a joke. But I knew that it couldn’t be taken seriously.'

Success

'Is he the worst artist in America?' asked a Life magazine article about Lichtenstein in 1964. Nonetheless, the artist was enjoying critical acclaim – not just in the United States but worldwide – alongside his contemporaries Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Claes Oldenburg.

Over his career, Lichtenstein made more than 5,000 paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures and other works, which are now housed in the world’s most prestigious institutions and collections – including the Tate Modern in London, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Most Famous Works

Lichtenstein’s most famous works include Whaam!, Drowning Girl and Crying Girl – all of which are underscored with parody and satire, transforming mainstream motifs and clichés into works of art. 'Pop Art looks out into the world. It doesn't look like a painting of something, it looks like the thing itself,' he said. The way he has blurred the distinction between popular culture and so-called high art has paved the way for artists like KAWS and Takashi Murakami today.

Influences

In 1966, Lichtenstein said that Cubism, Cartooning and Commercial Art were his clearest influences. Although he is best known for his comic book style artworks, Lichtenstein referenced art history, ranging from classical Chinese scroll paintings to Abstract Expressionism.

'Artists have often converted the work of other artists into their own style,' Lichtenstein admitted. He has recreated masterpieces from Claude Monet’s Haystacks to Picasso’s portraits and Jackson Pollock’s sweeping brushstrokes in his signature Benday dots. 'I’m interested in my work’s redeveloping these classical ways, except that it’s not classical, it’s like a cartoon. I’m interested because of the impact it has when you look at it.'

Style & Techniques

Lichtenstein borrowed techniques from comic strips and commercial printing, most notably the Ben-Day dot, but he maintained he was not just a simple copyist. 'I am nominally copying,' he said, 'but I am really restating the copied thing in other terms. In doing that, the original acquires a totally different texture. It isn't thick or thin brushstrokes, it's dots and flat colours and unyielding lines.'

Lichtenstein’s paintings may look machine-made, but each dot is carefully and painstakingly painted by hand. For his painting Whaam!, Lichtenstein created his signature Ben-Day dots using an aluminium mesh as a template, pushing oil paint through the holes using a toothbrush.

Life & Times

In 1949, Lichtenstein married his first wife Isabel Wilson, with whom he had two sons. The couple separated in 1962. Dramatic paintings of romance and conflict ­– from explosive war scenes like Whaam! to the heartbroken Drowning Girl and Engagement Rings – soon followed, possibly a reflection of Lichtenstein’s own hopes and disappointments surrounding his personal life. 'I was interested in anything I could use as a subject that was emotionally strong. Usually love, war, or something that was highly charged and emotional subject matter,' the artist later recalled.

Lichtenstein married his second wife Dorothy Herzka in 1968. They lived together in Southampton, New York, from 1970 until Lichtenstein’s death in 1997. Dorothy is now president of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.

Last Paintings

Lichtenstein began his final series, Nudes, in 1993 until his death in 1997, with Interior With Nude Leaving being one of his final works. The painting is especially unique as the nude is walking off-screen, barely seen at all. It suggested that Lichtenstein was beginning to experiment with new compositions and styles.

On The Market

In January 2017, Lichtenstein’s Masterpiece (1962) sold for an incredible $165 million in a private sale, making it among the 15 highest valued artworks ever. The artist has sustained a consistent level of popularity both during and after his lifetime. The range of his print portfolio, encompassing signed limited-edition screen prints and lithographs, makes them accessible to a large audience of collectors.

Nurse by Roy Lichtenstein

Nurse © Roy Lichtenstein 1964

1. £63.4M for Roy Lichtenstein's Nurse

Featuring Lichtenstein’s iconic bold colours, Ben-Day dots and comic-book theme, Nurse set the world auction record for the artist when it sold in Christie’s The Artist’s Muse auction in New York on 9 November 2015. Painted in 1964 – at the height of Lichtenstein’s career – Nurse was first bought by the advertising executive Leon Kraushar, who assembled one of the greatest collections of Pop Art ever known, before it was acquired industrialist Karl Ströher, whose family owned the Wella haircare brand.

Woman With Flowered Hat by Roy Lichtenstein

Woman With Flowered Hat © Roy Lichtenstein 1963

2. £36.7M for Roy Lichtenstein's Woman With Flowered Hat

Between 1962–63, Lichtenstein created four paintings inspired by the works of Pablo PicassoWoman With Flowered Hat was the last in this series. Unlike the Picasso version, however, Lichtenstein changed the woman’s hair from brown to blonde. “The Picasso is converted to my pseudo-cartoon style and takes on a character of its own,” the artist had said. The work sold at Christie’s in New York on 15 May 2013 in a bidding battle lasting almost six minutes.

Nude With Joyous Painting by Roy Lichtenstein

Nude With Joyous Painting © Roy Lichtenstein 1994

3. £36.6M for Roy Lichtenstein's Nude With Joyous Painting

On 10 July 2020, Lichtenstein’s Nude With Joyous Painting established its place in the artist’s top three works at auction when it became the most expensive lot in Christie’s ONE: A Global Sale of the 20th Century sale. Bids came in from New York, Hong Kong and over the telephone, finally selling after 10 minutes of intense bidding. The painting, created in the last years of Lichtenstein’s life, is considered the most important work in the artist’s last, great series of nudes. Even artist Jeff Koons agreed that “the later women paintings and nudes that Roy did are just absolutely gorgeous”.

Sleeping Girl by Roy Lichtenstein

Sleeping Girl © Roy Lichtenstein 1964