Roy Lichtenstein was commissioned to create his Merton Of The Movies poster by the award-winning performing arts company Minnesota Theatre Co in 1968. “Merton of the Movies” is a 1924 satirical comedy film based on a 1922 play, which in turn was based on a comic novel of the same name. Detailing Merton Gill’s rise to fame, a small-town aspirant of performance art, the main plot ridicules the glamorised world of silent films.
The artist produced this artwork entirely in the spirit of the art deco posters of the 1930s. Resulting from the emergence of mass consumerism at the turn of the century, these promotional printed posters quickly became an art form. Not only were these placards expressive of the style, mood, and feel of the Jazz Age, they were notorious for being low-cost.
Lichtenstein’s Merton Of The Movies poster bears the indulgent characteristics of a machine age aesthetic. The geometrically precise design shows a staircase portrayed in rich colours, strident outlines, and overlapping dots. Through exuberant lettering and simplified forms, Lichtenstein’s symmetric composition captures the historical implications of show business. The implied glamour and the luxury of the industry are sentiments further enhanced by the artist’s use of silver foil as base.