Who Are They?

Who is Roy Lichtenstein?

Cartoons, comics and big bangs! Explore the explosive art of pop artist Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein, ‘Explosion’ 1965–6
Roy Lichtenstein
Explosion 1965–6
Tate
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Does this explosion look like real to you? Or does it look like something from your favourite comic?

Roy Lichtenstein was born in New York in 1923. He became famous for his bright and bold paintings of comic strip cartoons as well as his paintings of everyday objects. He was one of a group of artists making art in the 1960s who were called pop artists because they made art about 'popular' things such as TV, celebrities, fast food, pop music and cartoons.

Although best known as a painter, he made different types of art including sculpture, murals, prints and ceramics.

Lichtenstein chose colours carefully, to imitate the four colours of printers’ inks. He also used Ben Day dots, a system invented to increase the range of colours available to newspaper printing. Look closely at his work – can you see how the colours are clear from a distance, but look like tiny dots and dashes close-up?

Roy Lichtenstein, ‘Reflections on Minerva’ 1990
Roy Lichtenstein
Reflections on Minerva 1990
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Collection 2015
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/DACS 2017
Roy Lichtenstein, ‘Reflections on The Scream’ 1990
Roy Lichtenstein
Reflections on The Scream 1990
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Collection 2015
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/DACS 2017

Lichtenstein is famous for his use of cartoon strips from American comic books, which were very popular the 1950s. He admired the skill of the comic book artist, who could create complex stories of love and war in cartoon form.

He was sometimes accused of copying comics exactly, but he said that he made changes to the pictures – right down to the tiniest placement of individual dots. He was also criticized for using very basic painting techniques.

What do you think of his artworks?

Roy Lichtenstein, ‘Interior with Waterlilies’ 1991
Roy Lichtenstein
Interior with Waterlilies 1991
Tate
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/DACS 2017

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