Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
Lichtenstein was inspired by comic strips and used the bright, graphic theme throughout his works. His different take on art parodied the American popular culture and art community in his time, leading him to become one of the most focal artists in the Pop Art movement in the 1960s.
Throughout the 1950s, Lichtenstein used subjects from American history and folklore as well as mythology to pay respect and admiration to earlier art works from the 18th century. He did this whilst using the technique of modernism. This can be pondered upon, as modernism in art regularly involves the rejection of history and conservative values; thus, already showing his rebellion towards the typical art styles during his earlier times.
It was early in the 1960s when Lichtenstein began to experiment with new subjects and methods. His more recent artworks showed a response to the success of Abstract Expressionist painting as well as his account on American popular culture. Lichtenstein’s work consisted of directly obtaining his imagery from comic books and imitating their mechanical printing processes via using a stencil technique to produce a piece that looks similar to the commercial art of his time. He would often exaggerate the dot painting, known as Ben-Day dots, eventually becoming an element in his style.
Roy Lichtenstein is among the four who are considered the leaders of the Pop Art movement, including the other artists Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist and Claes Oldenburg. His work eventually became increasing popular, whilst provoking controversial responses over his originality and the thin line that he created regarding art and the entertainment community. Lichtenstein’s work also raised responses regarding consumerism, and how his works promoted the interests of the public, or consumers, thus going against the idea of art being an expressive form of ‘breaking boundaries’.
When it came to the 1970s, Lichtenstein moved his focus to creating art that referred to the works of early 20th century artists. These artists included Picasso, Fernand Léger and Salvador Dalí. By the 1980s and 1990s, he painted representations of mirror reflections, brush strokes and house interiors; all whilst maintaining his cartoon style of art.
Artwork 1: Drowning Girl (1963)
In this composition by Roy Lichtenstein we observe a woman drowning under curls of water. The piece is reminiscent of a popular comic strip style from the 1960s. The black lines outlining the woman’s frame and the waves, shows the simplistic nature of the artwork. The woman’s head takes up more than half the canvas, and shows her expressing a distraught, shattered and devastated emotion. The figure’s body and skin tone appears pink, whilst the waves appear light blue. However; with close inspection, the viewer observes many small dots making up the colour. To create the pink colour, many red dots are collectively spread out across a white background. To create the light blue colour, many dark blue dots are collectively spread out on a white background, in the same manner. This shows that to create the comic-like nature, very minimal colours were used. All together the artwork includes only four colours. These are black, white, blue and red.
In order to create tonal variation, the artist used the technique of dot density to make areas appear either lighter or darker. The more dots present, the darker; the less dots present, the lighter. Contrasting this dotted technique, blocks of colour were used to create the hair and inside mouth of the figure. The woman has white, blocked out teeth, and vibrant, thick, blue hair. The pose of the woman makes her appear feminine with her outstretched, fragile hand and more elegantly expressive eyebrows, eyelashes and eyelids; appealing to the stereotypes of woman during Lichtenstein’s era.
The remaining frame is filled with water; expressive in the direction of movement through the solid use of black. The matt white on the ends of the water proposes foam, making the viewer understand the raging nature and speed of the water surrounding the woman, taking her under. Overall, the artist created an effective representation of woman throughout the 1900s and achieved in creating the comic-like nature he aimed for in the artwork.
Artwork 2: Brushstrokes (1967)
In this interesting artwork by Roy Lichtenstein, the viewer understands his important view on brushstrokes in Abstract Expressionism. Lichtenstein makes a mockery of these artists view on using strokes to create and communicate feelings, and how the Abstract Expressionism artwork relied on gestural painting. Whilst this form of art relies on expression through stokes and layers, Lichtenstein aimed to show that comic inspired artworks are also a form of art as the artist expresses their views through obvious indications of what they consider and indicate as the most important features they observe on/in an object or scenario. Cartoon artist use a more simplistic technique in which they more blandly show the attributes they find most important and crucial to express ideas that are more universally understandable. Thus, his collection of brush stoke artworks was inspired.
In this specific artwork, Lichtenstein uses solid colours to show that he observes and notes colours, and remembers them as a more crucial feature than the tone of a colour; simplifying the image. The black solid lines through the solid, lighter colours of paint helps show Lichtenstein’s representation of the texture created by paint; it’s uneven lathers over a canvas as a result of the technique used by the hand of a brush. The small splattered dots on the top-left corner of the frame show his representation of paint as a thick liquid consistency. The use of the Ben-Day dotted technique in the background shows his argumentative view on the topic, again stimulating his satirical perspective that his technique of work is also a form of art. Overall, Lichtenstein effectively got his view on the topic of Pop Art through in this piece, and helped simplify the reason behind the artistic nature of his works; eventually changing the perception of art and revolutionising the industry.