Roy Lichtenstein, Look Mickey, 1961

Roy Lichtenstein, Look Mickey, 1961
oil on canvas
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Roy and Dorothy Lichtenstein in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art
© Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Roy Lichtenstein, Whaam!, 1963

Roy Lichtenstein, Whaam!, 1963
oil on canvas
Tate Modern, London
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein, Torpedo...LOS!, 1963

Roy Lichtenstein, Torpedo...LOS!, 1963
oil on canvas
Private collection
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein: a Retrospective - NGA Washington

'Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective' includes more than 100 of the artist's greatest paintings from all periods of his career, along with a selection of related drawings and sculptures. National Gallery of Art, Washington, October 14, 2012 - January 13, 2013

Source: National Gallery of Art, Washington

Although many pop artists explored similar subject matter, what distinguished Lichtenstein was his use of hand-painted yet mechanical-looking dots to create areas of tone and color, which would eventually become his signature technique. The National Gallery's own "Look Mickey" (1961) is an early example of this method and opens the exhibition. Considered by Lichtenstein to be his first pop painting (which he donated, with Dorothy Lichtenstein, in 1990 in honor of the Gallery's 50th anniversary), Look Mickey pioneered the artist's now-famous combination of comic-book themes and the look of commercial printing processes.

The exhibition is arranged chronologically and thematically, allowing for a comprehensive understanding of Lichtenstein's work.

Entablatures: On view on the Mezzanine outside the entrance to the exhibition, the Entablatures depict the architrave, cornice, and frieze that derive from classical motifs on institutional buildings in and around New York City's Wall Street.

Early Pop: After completing several canvases with identifiable comic-book characters, Lichtenstein moved on to subject matter taken from other forms of printed media, including advertisements, telephone books, and catalogues.

Black and White: Lichtenstein experimented with a series of paintings without pop color or narrative—large black-and-white works depicting ordinary, everyday objects.

War and Romance: Lichtenstein is best known for his series of large-scale works of distressed young women and daring young men derived from war and romance comics. The sentimental young romance of "We Rose Up Slowly" (1964) and the violence of war in "Whaam!" (1963) point to stereotypical representations of gender in the mass media.

Brushstrokes: Early in his career, Lichtenstein experimented with abstract expressionism, but he soon abandoned the style. Later, with his signature pop art style, Lichtenstein returned to the motif of the brushstroke—the predominant feature in abstract expressionist works and arguably the core of painting itself.

Landscape: One of the first genres that Lichtenstein turned to following his comic-inspired pop breakthrough, the Landscape paintings contain his trademark halftone dots but their compositions are pared down to basic elements.

Modern: Lichtenstein's 1966 poster design for New York City's Lincoln Center was inspired by the architecture and design of the late 1920s and 1930s—the style of earlier performing arts palaces such as Radio City Music Hall.

Art History: Throughout his career, Lichtenstein applied his comic style to create versions of impressionist, cubist, futurist, surrealist, and German expressionist works.

Mirrors: Lichtenstein's choice of mirrors as a subject is one of the artist's references to art history—Jan van Eyck and Diego Velázquez famously depicted mirrors in their work.

Artist's Studios: In this monumental series, inspired by Henri Matisse's painting Red Studio (1911), Lichtenstein created a purely imaginary interior realm in which to inventory his images. In Artist's Studio "Look Mickey" (1973) Lichtenstein references individual works (including Look Mickey), and series (Entablatures, Mirrors).

Perfect/Imperfect: The paintings in this series, made between 1979 and 1989, are Lichtenstein's first and last complete abstractions, his only pop works that do not depict anything.

Nudes: Unlike traditional depictions based on live models, the women in Lichtenstein's Nudes series are inventions with origins traceable to the artist's archive of comic-book clippings, some dating back to the 1960s.

Chinese Landscapes: Lichtenstein returned to the landscape genre in 1995, creating a powerful series of more than 20 works that appropriate motifs of the classical landscape painting of the Song dynasty (960–1279).

Related content

Art Institute of Chicago presents 'Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective' (exhibition, 2012)

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