Roy Lichtenstein, one of the most important and recognisable American artists of the post war era, was born on this day in 1923. The ARTIST ROOMS exhibition currently on show at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art includes a group of late screen prints on long-term loan from the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation as well as the painting Reflections: ART 1988 and iconic works from the Tate and National Galleries of Scotland collections, including In the Car 1963.
The works entered the ARTIST ROOMS collection and were celebrated with the display in Edinburgh, which has proved a big success with visitors since its opening in March. To coincide with the opening we were fortunate enough to be joined by Dorothy Lichtenstein, the Director of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation and Roy’s widow, Jack Cowart, Executive Director of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation and Anthony d’Offay, who assembled the ARTIST ROOMS collection and worked with Roy on one of his last exhibitions in 1997, for a talk with the curator, Lucy Askew.
The event began with Dorothy explaining how she had first met Roy while she was working on an exhibition at the Bianchini Gallery, New York. ‘The Great American Supermarket’, 1964, which looked to the emerging Pop Art of the time and how artists associated with the movement had incorporated the imagery of food products into their work, included the likes of Jasper Johns’ beer cans and Andy Warhol’s soup cans. Dorothy (then known as Dorothy Herzka) invited Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol to initial bags in promotion of the exhibition. Dorothy and Roy married in 1968.
Roy had already begun to establish himself as one of Pop Art’s leading practitioners during this period and had completed two of his greatest masterpieces - In the Car and Whaam! - in 1963. The former - one of the highlights in the collection at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art - is characteristic of Roy’s work from the period, employing source material from comic books and newspapers. These works present archetypal images of contemporary America during a period Jack Cowart describes as a transformative time in the art world and represent a ‘clean break’ with Abstract Expressionists and all that went before.
The works in the ARTIST ROOMS collection include large screen prints Lichtenstein produced in the 1990s. These works continued to explore the major themes that preoccupied the artist throughout his career. Among them are works which reflect back on his Pop Art career as well as those which acknowledge masterpieces by the likes of Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, and Claude Monet.
The work of Lichtenstein continues to engage and inspire new audiences today and the success of the current exhibition is testament to this enduring fascination with his work. Perhaps because of the universal themes dealt with in the works and the way his images have come to permeate popular culture, they are as much a part of our lives now as his source material.
Watch the full talk in the video below.