This week sees the opening of Lichtenstein: A Retrospective, a major new exhibition of this celebrated painter’s work. One of the stars of the show is of course the iconic Whaam!, a work from Tate’s collection which has been a popular favourite among visitors for decades. Tate first bought it back in 1966, only a few years after it was painted, at a time when American pop art was still a rare sight in British galleries.
The acquisition was controversial with both the art establishment and the public. In fact, director Norman Reid later said that Whaam! aroused more public interest than any acquisition since the Second World War. This interest brought huge numbers of people to see it in Tate’s first Lichtenstein exhibition of 1968 and many more have enjoyed seeing it at Tate Modern over the past decade.
From 21 February to 27 May this year, it will have pride of place in this new retrospective, surrounded by other eye-popping paintings drawn from comic book imagery. The exhibition also includes issue #89 of the action comic All American Men of War, in which you can find the original panel Lichtenstein adapted into Whaam!