Roy Lichtenstein’s Cathedral series was created in 1969, about a decade after Pop Art was established in the United States. The artist saw photographs of impressionist Claude Monet’s Rouen Cathedrals, which inspired him to manufacture his own versions of the subject matter.
Monet’s quintessentially painterly approach stands in sharp contrast to Lichtenstein’s commercially influenced style. Yet, Lichtenstein’s primary colours and Ben Day dots can be regarded as obvious descendants of Monet’s impressionist brushwork. Similar to how Monet’s paintings dissolve into individual brushstrokes, so do Lichtenstein’s handmade dots.
Cathedral 6 (State I), resembles Cathedral 5 in it’s starkly contrastive black and yellow colour scheme. Lichtenstein uses Ben-Day dots in a process that is similar to pointillism. The dots are spaced differently by hand and sometimes overlapping to create different colours and tones. While Monet’s repetition seemingly reaffirms the singularity of the Rouen Cathedral, Cathedral 6 (State I) presents a mass of uniform dots, mechanising the subject matter.
Essentially, Lichtenstein’s emphasis is on revising mass reproduction techniques in his work above all else. His main intention is to expose how art is commodified for public consumption through various media, like advertising and printing. The Monet cathedrals function as art historical footnotes for the artist.