The Cathedral series by Roy Lichtenstein was created in 1969 and inspired by a photograph depicting an exhibition of serial artworks. Featured amongst those exhibited were impressionist Claude Monet’s famous oil paintings of the Rouen Cathedral in France.
Monet painted at the site of the cathedral, capturing transient stages of light moving across the building’s surface over the course of two years. His quintessentially painterly approach stands in sharp contrast to Lichtenstein’s commercially influenced style.
Yet, Lichtenstein’s primary colours and Ben Day dots can be interpreted as obvious descendants of Monet’s impressionist brushwork. Similar to how Monet’s paintings dissolve into individual brushstrokes upon close scrutiny, so do Lichtenstein’s handmade dots. Evidently, his Cathedral series has the same visual quality in its eligibility as its source material, but is a distinctively mechanised structure; an expression of the 20th century. This modern approach is manifested through Lichtenstein’s bold colour scheme.
While Monet’s repetition sought to reaffirm the singularity of the Rouen Cathedral, Lichtenstein’s depiction of the monument in Cathedral 5 mechanises the subject matter. As opposed to the soft colour composition of Cathedral 1, the image is refined into contrastive black and yellow dots, highlighting the act of seeing over what is portrayed.