Some of Lichtenstein’s most iconic works include Whaam!, Hopeless, and Drowning Girl, all of which were executed in 1963 and are rendered in his bright, bold colour palette.

Underscored with parody and irony, they transform mainstream motifs and clichés into works of art, elevating seemingly trivial subjects into meaningful social commentary, blurring the distinction between so-called high art and popular culture in much the same way as contemporary artists such as KAWS or Takashi Murakami today.

Lichtenstein maintained that “Pop Art looks out into the world. It doesn’t look like a painting of something, it looks like the thing itself.” His work was not only a satirical mirror to the society in which he worked, but also remains decidedly relevant today, speaking to universal themes that range from heartbreak to consumerism to gender politics.

What was Roy Lichtenstein’s first painting?

Look Mickey by Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein’s Look Mickey, 1961.

Roy Lichtenstein trained as a classical painter but struggled for decades to find his style. From the late 1950s, after years of painting in an Abstract Expressionist manner, he began to experiment with cartoon imagery, pop culture and advertisement. Look Mickey from 1961, created when the artist was 37 years old, is considered his breakthrough Pop Art painting.

Look Mickey was based on an illustration from the book Donald Duck Lost and Found, owned by one of Lichtenstein’s sons. The work marked the first time Lichtenstein fused high art with pop culture. Look Mickey would establish the direction for the rest of his career.

What was Roy Lichtenstein’s last painting?

Interior with Nude Leaving, made in 1997, was the last painting in Lichtenstein’s Nudes series and one of his final works. The Nudes series began in 1993 but were very different from the comic book girls that inspired Lichtenstein in his early career. While the earlier heroines were lifted straight out of the cartoon panels, with relatively minimal changes, the later nudes were often combined from different panels and were always undressed, even though their original counterparts were clothed.

Interior with Nude Leaving is especially unique in the series, as the nude is walking off-screen, barely seen at all – the work suggests that Lichtenstein was experimenting with new compositions and styles, cut short by his sudden death on 29 September 1997.

Nudes series: Nude with Street Scene by Roy Lichtenstein

From Roy Lichtenstein’s Nudes series: Nude with Street Scene, 1995

What is Roy Lichtenstein’s most famous work of art?

Whaam! is one of Lichtenstein’s most recognisable and important works. Created in 1963, the painting took just a month to complete. It was Purchased in 1966 by Tate Gallery in London, who recognised Lichtenstein’s talent even though critics had labelled him as ‘one of the worst artists in America’. Whaam! is now considered a masterpiece and one of the most popular artworks in Tate Modern’s collection.

Whaam! was taken from a panel in DC Comic’s All-American Men of War #89 from February 1962, in which a fighter jet destroys an enemy plane. The dramatic moment is a classic theme in Lichtenstein’s works, which leaves the viewer wondering the story before and what may happen afterwards.

Whaam! by Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein’s Whaam!, 1967

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