“In America the biggest is the best.”
Born in New York City in 1923, Roy Lichtenstein studied at the Art Students League and later enrolled at Ohio State University. After serving in the army from 1943 to 1946, he returned to Ohio State to get a master’s degree and to teach. It was in 1951 that Lichtenstein returned to New York City and had his first one–man show.
Throughout the 1950s, Lichtenstein’s style was based in abstract expressionism, but also incorporated themes such as cowboys and Indians and paper money. It was 1961 while at Douglass College that Lichtenstein became impressed by the work of colleague Allan Kaprow and began using the comic–strip and cartoon figures for which he is known today.
His use of the “benday dot,” a printing process that is similar to pointillism in which small dots of color are used to form an image replaced shades of color. On occasion, he would also recompose a comic strip scene, project it on to canvas and then stencil in dots. Primary colors—red, yellow and blue, heavily outlined in black—became his favorites. Occasionally he used green. Instead of shades of color, he used the benday dot, a method by which an image is created, and its density of tone modulated in printing. Sometimes he selected a comic–strip scene, recomposed it, projected it onto his canvas and stenciled in the dots. “I want my painting to look as if it had been programmed,” Lichtenstein explained. Despite the fact that many of his paintings are relatively small, Lichtenstein’s method of handling his subject matter conveys a sense of monumental size. His images seem massive.
Since 1962, he has turned to the work of artists such as Picasso, Mondrian, and even Monet as inspiration for his work. In the mid–1960s, he also painted sunsets and landscapes in his by–nowfamiliar style. In addition, he has designed ceramic tableware and graphics for mass production. “I’m interested in portraying a sort of antisensibility that pervades society,” Lichtenstein says, summing up his work.