Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). Keds, 1961. Oil on canvas. 123.2 x 88.3 cm, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. The Robert B. Mayer Family Collection, Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). Nude with Street Scene, 1995. Oil on Magna on canvas. 121.9 x 171.5 cm, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Collection Simonyi.

Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). Look Mickey, 1961. Oil on canvas. 121.9 x 175.3 cm, © National Gallery of Art. The National Gallery of Art. Dorothy and Roy Lichtenstein, Gift of the artist, in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery.

Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). Haystacks, 1969. Oil and Magna on canvas. 40.6 x 61 cm, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. The Ruben Family.

Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). Hot Dog with Mustard, 1963. Oil on canvas. 45.7 x 121.9 cm, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Aaron I. Fleischman.

Roy Lichtenstein's Career-Long Exploration of the Process of Painting

Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). Haystack, 1969. Oil on canvas. 45.7 x 61 cm, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. The Ruben Family.

Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). Brushstroke with Spatter, 1966. Oil and Magna on canvas. 121.9 x 152.4 cm, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Art Institute of Chicago, Barbara Neff Smith and Solomon Byron Smith Purchase Fund.

Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). Landscape in Fog, 1996. Oil and Magna on canvas. 180.3 x 207.6 cm, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Private Collection.

Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). Wall Explosion II, 1965. Porcelain enamel on steel 170.2 x 188 cm x 10.2 cm, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Tate: Purchased 1980. Photo ©Tate, 2011.

Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). Ohhh…Alright…, 1964. Oil and Magna on canvas. 91.4 x 96.5 cm, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Private Collection.

Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). Masterpiece, 1962. Oil on canvas. 137.2 x 137.2 cm, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Agnes Gund Collection, New York.

Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). Laocoön, 1988. Oil and Magna on canvas. 304.8 x 259.1 cm, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Private Collection.


Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective
May 16-September 3, 2012

Whaam! Bratatat! Varoom! The Art Institute of Chicago explodes this summer with the energy of Roy Lichtenstein in the largest exhibition of the seminal Pop artist to date. More than 160 of Lichtenstein's works, from the familiar to the completely unexpected, will be on view in the first of only two American venues for Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective. Bringing together never-before-seen drawings, paintings, and sculpture, this exhibition presents the deepest exploration of Lichtenstein's signature style and its myriad applications across one of the most prolific careers in 20th-century art. The result is a dazzling array of color and dynamism, traversing art historical movements, magazine advertisements and comics, nudes and heroes, sea and sky. Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective is slated to be a monumental exhibition that captures the power of Pop with works of art as fresh and revolutionary as they were 50 years ago.

Following its presentation at the Art Institute, Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective travels to National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (October 14, 2012-January 13, 2013); Tate Modern, London (February 21-May 27, 2013); and Centre Pompidou in Paris (July 3-November 4, 2013).

“The Art Institute of Chicago has several important works by Roy Lichtenstein in its permanent collection, including Brushstroke with Spatter (1966) and Mirror #3 (Six Panels) (1971),” said James Rondeau, Frances and Thomas Dittmer Chair and Curator, Department of Contemporary Art at the Art Institute. “But it has long been an ambition of mine to present these works in the context of Lichtenstein’s rich and impressive career. Lichtenstein is rightly recognized for being a foundational Pop artist who created some of the most iconic works of the 20th century. But these works — the comic strips, the war imagery — represent only part of Lichtenstein’s decades-long career. Our aim with this exhibition is to explore the full range of absorbing contradictions at the heart of Lichtenstein’s work — starting with the paradox that Lichtenstein systematically dismantled the history of modern art while becoming a fixture in that canon. Lichtenstein, we hope to show, was a profoundly radical artist with a lasting impact on the history of 20th-century art.”

Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) was born in New York City and grew up immersed in the heady cultural life of that metropolis, showing an early interest in art, design, and music. But the long arc of Lichtenstein’s artistic career did not begin until his formal training at Ohio State University continuing through his graduate years following his service in World War II. His early art hewed closely to a playful figurative style that included Cubist-inspired renderings of fairytales and medieval subjects along with subjects from American history to engineer parts. He briefly turned to the gestural style of the Abstract Expressionist in the late 1950s and continued in that vein while teaching in New York and at Douglass College, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. During that era he came into contact with ambitious artists and teachers—including Allan Kaprow, Jim Dine, and Claes Oldenburg — who advocated art rooted in everyday life. Beginning in 1961, while still teaching design courses at Douglass, he made a major departure from his previous Cubist and Abstract Expressionist styles by channeling the seemingly “artless” medium of cartoons. His painting Look Mickey (1961) and similar works — rendered in the lines and colors of flat-looking cartoons or comics — posed a new challenge to the world of fine art and won the artist attention for his groundbreaking new genus of Pop art.

But, as this exhibition makes clear, the mass media imagery with which he was engaged during this time would prove to be only a vehicle for Lichtenstein’s deeper exploration of the processes of painting, the question of “style,” and a fluid approach to subject matter that he would retain until his death. His immediately recognizable signature — the hand-painted Ben-Day “dots” derived from commercial printing processes — was critical to his act of blurring the boundaries between “low art” and traditional artistic genres. His seemingly mechanical technique also masked the effort and preparation he put into each painting — drawing, transposition, enlargement, editing, and meticulous labor. It was a technique that he would use to explore a wide variety of subjects from the eminently art historical (Picasso and Matisse) to the commercial (comic books, newspaper advertisements). Ranging so variously through such source material, Lichtenstein’s work emerges as fundamentally concerned with compositional order and the integrity of the two-dimensional image, or, as he described it in 1952, “My purpose in painting is to create an integrated organization of visual elements.”

Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective traces this “integrated organization” throughout all periods of the artist’s career, grouping together nearly all of his series with rarely seen preparatory studies. The exhibition begins with his early (1950s) and late (1990s) explorations of brushstrokes, perhaps no better introduction to his lifelong inquiry into technique and the paradox of the artist’s hand in an age of commercial printing. From this introductory section, viewers then immerse themselves in the treatments of various domestic subjects such as spray cans, washing machines, and engagement rings that Lichtenstein was using to develop his signature style, most fully fleshed out in Look Mickey from 1961. During this same period, Lichtenstein was experimenting with his palette, rendering images in a stark graphic style in a series of black and white paintings produced in the early 1960s. “War and Romance” and the following “Explosions and Brushstrokes” feature some of Lichtenstein’s most iconic works, including many of his cartoon panels and his broad, expansive depictions of explosions with titles such as Varoom! (1963).

From the mid 1960s onward, Lichtenstein began working more abstractly and engaging directly with art historical pictorial traditions, starting with “Landscapes” and moving into reworkings of recognizable themes and subjects such as Haystack (after Monet) and Cubist Still Life. He also devoted himself, at the same time, to the representation of mirrors—emphatically flat and conceptually enigmatic. Many of these strains came together in his series of “Artist’s Studio” paintings, which drew upon his own oeuvre as well as landmark paintings such as The Dance by Henri Matisse and further references to pop culture. The 1980s and 1990s found Lichtenstein creating his “Perfect/Imperfect” abstractions, a series of nudes, and, near the end of his life, luminous Chinese landscapes.

A major catalogue published by the Art Institute and distributed by Yale University Press will accompany the exhibition. Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective features exciting new scholarship by an international team of distinguished curators, critics, and art historians. Essays by Yve-Alain Bois, Chrissie Iles, and Stephen Little, among others, give special consideration to Lichtenstein's historical influences, from Picasso and Cubism through Surrealism, Futurism, and British Pop. Contributions by James Rondeau (Frances and Thomas Dittmer Chair and Curator, Department of Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago) and Sheena Wagstaff (Chief Curator at Tate Modern, London) evaluate the artist's abstract work and late nudes. Complemented by photographs of the artist and his exhibitions, the essays examine the various styles and subjects featured in paintings created throughout his lifetime. The inclusion of a complete chronology of Lichtenstein's life and work — compiled by Clare Bell of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation — makes this catalogue the most authoritative publication on the artist since his death in 1997. Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective is available at the Art Institute's Museum Shop beginning June 4, 2012.

Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). Oh, Jeff...I Love You, Too...But…, 1964. Oil and Magna on canvas. 121.9 x 121.9 cm, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Collection Simonyi.

Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). Untitled, 1959. Oil on canvas. 86.5 x 71.3 cm, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Private Collection.

Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). Alka Seltzer, 1966. Graphite and lithographic rubbing crayon pochoir, with scraping, on cream wove paper, fixed. 76.2 x 55.9 cm, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Art Institute of Chicago, Margaret Fisher Endowment.

Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). Whaam!, 1963. Magna and oil on canvas. 172.7 x 406.4 cm, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Tate: Purchased 1966. Photo ©Tate, 2011.

Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). Sunrise, 1965. Oil and Magna on canvas. 91.4 x 172.7 cm, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Private Collection.

Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). The Ring (Engagement), 1962. Oil on canvas. 121.9 x 177.8 cm, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Stefan T. Edlis Collection.

Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). Artist’s Studio No. 1 (Look Mickey), 1973. Oil, Magna, sand with aluminum powder and Magna medium on canvas. 243.8 x 325.1 cm, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Gift of Judy and Kenneth Dayton and the T.B. Walker Foundation, 1981.

Roy Lichtenstein, American (1923-1997). Ball of Twine, 1963. Magna on canvas. 172.7 x 91.4 cm (40 x 36 in). © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Christie’s.

Roy Lichtenstein, Knock Knock, 1961, Brush, pen and india ink, 57.2 x 50.8 cm, The Sonnabend Collection, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.

Roy Lichtenstein, Bread and Jam, 1963, Graphite pencil, pochoir and lithographic rubbing crayon, 46 x 56.5 cm, The Sonnabend Collection, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.

The Drawings and Sources of Roy Lichtenstein, 1961-1968

Roy Lichtenstein, Foot Medication, 1962, Frottage and graphite pencil, 56.5 x 56.8 cm, The Menil Collection, Houston, Bequest of David Whitney, Photographer: George Hixon, Houston, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein, Roy Lichtenstein.

Roy Lichtenstein, Zipper, 1962, Graphite pencil, 57.2 x 50.2 cm, Collection of Barbara Bertozzi Castelli , © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein Roy Lichtenstein.

Roy Lichtenstein, I Know How You Must Feel, Brad!, 1963, Graphite pencil, pochoir and lithographic rubbing crayon, 76.2 x 56.5 cm, Private Collection, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein, Photography: Schecter Lee, 2009.

Roy Lichtenstein, Bratatat, 1962, Frottage and graphite pencil, 65.4 x 51.1 cm, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Ethel Morrison Van Berlip Fund, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.

Roy Lichtenstein, Him, 1964, Graphite pencil, pochoir and lithographic rubbing crayon, 54.9 x 43 cm, Saint Louis Art Museum, Eliza McMillan Trust and Friends Fund 138:1972, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.

Roy Lichtenstein, Keds, 1962, Frottage and graphite pencil, 56.8 x 41.6 cm, Collection of James N. Goodman Irrevocable Trust, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.


The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue
at 36th Street
New York

Roy Lichtenstein:
The Black-and-White Drawings, 1961-1968

September 24, 2010-January 2, 2011

Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) has long been considered one of the key figures in the development of Pop Art. His signature brightly colored paintings are cornerstones of museum collections the world over. His subject matter drawn from visual fragments of popular culture is emblematic of an entire movement.

A brilliant exhibition organized by Morgan Library & Museum presents an important series of large-scale, black-and-white works as a group for the first time and examines Lichtenstein’s less known exploration of the medium of drawing. Created during the early and mid-1960s, the 55 drawings offer a revealing window into the development of Lichtenstein’s art, as he began to appropriate commercial illustrations and comic strips as subject matter and experimented stylistically with simulating commercial techniques of reproduction — the famous Benday dots. The work represents an essential and original contribution to Pop Art as well as to the history of drawing.

“The Morgan is delighted to be the first museum to bring together this important group of drawings by Roy Lichtenstein,” said William M. Griswold, director. “The work offers visual evidence of a great artist going in a radical new direction and using the medium of drawing to help him find his way. The Morgan Library & Museum is committed to the study of drawings and their role in the creative process, and Lichtenstein’s black-and-white works are superb examples of this.”

The year 1961 was a momentous period of transformation for Roy Lichtenstein. Thirty-eight years old and regularly exhibiting in New York since 1951, he was by many measures already a midcareer artist, working primarily in painting in Cubist and Abstract Expressionist styles. But in 1961 his art made a radical departure from these precedents. Influenced by the happenings staged by Allan Kaprow, George Segal, Claes Oldenburg, and others, which incorporated everyday objects and popular culture, Lichtenstein turned to an entirely new imagery culled from the contemporary world of advertisements and comic books and adopted the graphic techniques of commercial illustration. The exhibition demonstrates how the act of drawing took on a central role in his practice at this stage, both as a favored medium in its own right, as well as a powerful means of translating and transforming his sources of pop iconography.

The exhibition provides a rare opportunity to study Lichtenstein’s black-and-white drawings as a group, to explore their technique and subject matter, to draw attention to Lichtenstein’s revolutionizing contribution to the history of drawing, and to bring to light the critical insights these drawings offer into the artist’s larger body of work.

The drawings constitute an original body of work independent from Lichtenstein’s paintings. Although he produced many black-and-white paintings during the 1960s, the drawings were in fact conceived independently and cannot be interpreted as studies for the works on canvas. Lichtenstein’s motivations in creating these works — which did not have the commercial value of paintings — remain enigmatic, thoughthe exhibition provides some background. Moreover, these drawings differ significantly from Lichtenstein’s main body of works on paper. They do not belong to the category of preparatory studies and also stand apart from the drawings of other major pop artists, notably Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, and Jim Dine, whose treatment of pop subjects cultivated an old-master look that is absent from Lichtenstein’s black-and-white drawings.

The exhibition traces the development of Lichtenstein’s drawing style in the 1960s, notably his technique of simulating the Benday dot printing process — a characteristic feature of his style. The viewer can follow the development of the black-and-white drawings through the rendering of these dot patterns. Lichtenstein never drew them freehand but experimented with a variety of approaches, which he perfected over the years to mimic the effect of mechanical printing.

This technique became inseparable from the meaning of the finished work, producing, in the words of critic Lawrence Alloway, “an original artwork pretending to be a copy.” By imitating mechanical modes of reproduction, Lichtenstein presented a critical challenge to prevailing notions of artistic originality and authorship, paradoxically achieving an unmistakable hallmark of style in the process.

The exhibition also explores sources — comic strips, advertisements, magazines, mail-order catalogues — of Lichtenstein’s subjects. In addition to the drawings, related sketches are on display as well as clippings from newspapers, magazines, telephone books, and other sources from which Lichtenstein drew inspiration for works in the exhibition. The show underscores the two themes that came to dominate the drawings — household objects and comic-book scenes of war and romance — and illustrates how Lichtenstein endowed them with a heightened psychological resonance and formal intensity, raising them to the level of high art.

The earliest drawings are the most basic. A centrally placed, single object often stands against a blank background: an airplane, a couch, a cup of coffee. Others are based on diagrams demonstrating how to use a product by depicting a hand or foot interacting with an object, such as Hand Loading Gun and Foot Medication. When figures are included, as in Man with Coat and Girl with Accordion, they have plain, ordinary features, as opposed to the conventional beauty of male and female figures that soon appeared in his comic-inspired works.

By 1962, the drawings began to incorporate more elaborate source images, which introduced more complex compositions. Keds, for instance, was inspired by an advertisement for Sears, Roebuck & Company. In a sly reference to contemporary abstract art, Lichtenstein significantly reworked the composition to give greater emphasis to the geometric pattern of the sole. Bratatat and Jet Pilot are two drawings inspired by war comics. Both are close-up views of a pilot in his cockpit, with much attention lavished on the details of his accoutrements.

The exhibition also includes a piece from a little-known installation done by Lichtenstein in 1967 that represents an extension into three dimensions of his black-and-white drawings on paper. As part of the Aspen Festival of Contemporary Art, Lichtenstein drew with black tape on the wall of a white room, outlining its architectural elements. The only extant part of this project, a door with the words Nok!! Nok!! is featured, together with unpublished photographs of the whole room.

Roy Lichtenstein: The Black-and-White Drawings, 1961-1968 introduces an entirely new dimension of the artist’s work to audiences more accustomed to seeing his brightly colored paintings. Although Pop art in general has been the subject of a number of shows, they have featured few drawings and rarely addressed the practice of drawing by Pop artists.

The exhibition is organized by Isabelle Dervaux, curator of Modern and Contemporary Drawings at the Morgan. After it closes in New York, it will travel to The Albertina in Vienna, Austria (February 4 through May 15, 2011).

Roy Lichtenstein, Finger Pointing, 1961, Graphite pencil, pochoir, brush, and india ink, 76.2 x 57.2 cm, Private Collection, New York, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.

Roy Lichtenstein, Alka Seltzer, 1966, Graphite pencil, pochoir and lithographic rubbing crayon, 76.3 x 56.7 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago; Margaret fisher Endowment,
1993.176. Photography © The Art Institute of Chicago, © The Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.

Roy Lichtenstein, NOK!! NOK!! (Door from A Room, Aspen), 1967, Painted wood, metal, acrylic paint, and tape, 211.4 x 81.3 x 8.9 cm, Collection of De Wain Valentine, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.

Roy Lichtenstein, Baked Potato, 1962, Brush and india ink and synthetic polymer paint, 6.8 x 76.5 cm, The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (by exchange). 385.1984, Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY / The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.

Roy Lichtenstein, Man with Coat, 1961, Pochoir, brush, pen and india ink, 57.5 x 50.8 cm), The Sonnabend Collection, © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.