Roy Lichtenstein was an American artist who defined the Pop Art aesthetic. Along with fellow artists Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, and Jasper Johns, Lichtenstein used popular culture as a basis for art in the late 1950s and marked a move away from Abstract Expressionism. His paintings co-opted commercial imagery, and he is best known for his use of Benday dots—the method used in newspapers and comic strips to denote gradients and texture—on a large scale. His bold strokes and primary colors lent his distinctive style to reproductions of Piet Mondrian, Paul Cézanne, and Pablo Picasso. In his Brushstrokes series, which he began in the 1960s, he quoted the Abstract Expressionist gestures employed by the likes of Jackson Pollock. Born Roy Fox Lichtenstein on October 27, 1923 in New York, NY, he began his career at the Art Students League of New York after graduating from high school. He eventually earned his MFA from the Ohio State University in 1949, after leaving twice to serve in the US Army, and started to teach a decade later. While working as a professor at Rutgers University, he met Allan Kaprow who inspired him to revisit pop imagery in his practice. Lichtenstein returned to New York where he continued to live and work until his death on September 29, 1997, at the age of 73.
When American Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein painted Look Mickey in 1961, it set the tone for his career. This primary-color portrait of the cartoon mouse introduced Lichtenstein’s detached and deadpan style at a time when introspective Abstract Expressionism reigned. Mining material from advertisements, comics, and the everyday, Lichtenstein brought what was then a great taboo—commercial art—into the gallery. He stressed the artificiality of his images by painting them as though they’d come from a commercial press, with the flat, single-color Ben-Day dots of the newspaper meticulously rendered by hand using paint and stencils. Later in his career, Lichtenstein extended his source material to art history, including the work of Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso, and experimented with three-dimensional works. Lichtenstein’s use of appropriated imagery has influenced artists such as Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, and Raymond Pettibon.