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Critical Review

Inspired by Claude Monet’s impressionist oil paintings of Rouen Cathedral, Lichtenstein’s Cathedral series is characteristic of his bold colour use. His creations are housed in many of the world's prestigious art museums.

Lichtenstein is primarily known for skilfully launching comic book style and mechanically reproduced artworks into the world of fine art. He reconsiders artistic genres by presenting wry social commentary and satirical accounts of art history on his canvases. Moreover, he also demonstrates how the images of art are codified for public consumption through advertising and printing. The artist offers a complex vision of modern art’s tendency to borrow and alter works, styles and techniques of the past.

Lichtenstein’s Cathedral series of 1969 was inspired by photos depicting impressionist Claude Monet's 1894 oil paintings of the historic cathedral in Rouen. Monet painted at the site of the cathedral, in the Normandy region of France, at various points of the day, over the course of two years. His main purpose was to capture the transient movement of light against the building’s facade. His repetition of the same theme demonstrates a quintessentially painterly approach. The evocative brushwork employed in his series of oil paintings reaffirms the magnificence of the Rouen Cathedral.

Therein lies the main difference between the cathedral pictures of Monet and Lichtenstein. Monet explored the interchangeability and ephemerality of one motif. Meanwhile, Lichtenstein’s commercially influenced style in his Cathedral series of 1969 investigates mass-media systems and reproduction techniques.