In the early 1960s, shortly after appropriating comic imagery in his paintings, Lichtenstein decided to re-create several works by artists of the past. In Man with Folded Arms 1962, for instance, he painted Paul Cézanne’s renowned Homme aux bras croisés 1899. Although some critics queried the artistic status of Lichtenstein’s early Pop works because they did not embody the principle of ‘transformation’, today it seems obvious to us that his black-and-white ‘Cézanne’ has little to do with the original painting. What Lichtenstein was quoting, in fact, was not the painting itself, but its cheap and schematic reproduction as found in art history manuals.

Femme d'Alger 1963 Oil on canvas The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Cllection, Los Angeles © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/DACS 2012
Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
Femme d'Alger 1963
Oil on canvas
The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Collection, Los Angeles

Throughout his career, Lichtenstein engaged with several previous artistic styles, such as impressionism, futurism and German expressionism, or reformulated the paintings of artists like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Piet Mondrian. When you visit the exhibition at Tate Modern, in Room 7 you will find Lichtenstein’s Non-Objective 1 1964 – which mimics Mondrian’s neo-plastic style – as well as Femme d’Alger 1963, in which the artist translated Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger 1955 into the Pop idiom.

Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997 Reflections on "Interior with Girl Drawing" Oil and Magna on canvas 1990 The Eli and edythe L. Broad Collection, Los Angeles © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/DACS 2012
Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
Reflections on "Interior with Girl Drawing" 1990
Oil and Magna on canvas
The Eli and edythe L. Broad Collection, Los Angeles

In the catalogue accompanying the exhibition I have written an essay on Lichtenstein’s fascinating dialogue with Picasso. He regarded the Spanish master as the greatest artist of the 20th century: “I think he had just more magic, more insanity, more images, more styles, greater production than many others”, Lichtenstein remarked. In Reflections on ‘Interior with Girl Drawing’ 1990 – also in Room 7 of our exhibition – he re-created Picasso’s Deux Femmes 1935 as a framed painting under glass that produces reflections. This is one of Lichtenstein’s late masterpieces and is a perfect example of his ironic exercises on painting about painting.



Thank you! A really insightful post Iria. Beautiful works!

I went to the Lichtenstein show last week and I was pleasantly surprised. I didn't really have any idea how intricate all his paintings were. Each one of those tiny dots, hand-painted. It was incredible to see up close. My favourites were easily the Chinese landscapes.

Incredible exhibition, the lesser know pieces are intriguing. Picasso has definately influences Lichtenstein.

We could characterise Lichtenstein’s paintings as ‘metapictures’. W.J.T Mitchell coins the term in his book Picture Theory (1994). He describes metapictures as ‘pictures that refer to themselves or to other pictures’, which is to say they are ‘pictures that are used to show what a picture is’. The idea behind the metapicture is to consider what it would mean to ‘think’ about pictures without having to resort to a second-order discourse of any kind. ’Brushstrokes in painting’, Lichtenstein once said, ‘convey a sense of grand gesture … But in my hands, the brushstroke becomes the depiction of a grand gesture’. On the one hand, then, the metapicture can be self-referential about its own formation. It is about the making of a picture – epitomised in Lichtenstein’s case with his persistent use of the Ben-Day dots as explicit reference to the technical process of print media. Equally, however, the metapicture can refer to images as a collection, or in terms of their genre. This sense of the metapicture is apparent with Lichtenstein’s rendering of comic-book imagery, Disney characters, mirror reflections and also his fabulous Chinese landscape paintings.

When one conjures to mind the works of Roy Lichtenstein, it is easy to think his work as simply the re-framing of popular culture. What is more difficult, but more rewarding to remember is that Lichtenstein was a painter through and through. The experience I gained when seeing so many of his works in the ‘flesh’ was to be reminded just how rich the canvases are and just how poorly they reproduce on page or screen.

I have written a blog post on the exhibition to say more. I hope it might be of some interest:


I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of works on display and had no idea beforehand of the breadth to L.'s career. The exhibition posed some interesting questions into what makes art and our responses to it. The rooms were well laid out and progression worked well for me. Three areas stick out at the moment. The works inspired by past artists were enjoyable in their own right but also as a dialogue with the sources. With the mirror paintings I found myself willing them to reflect something, anything, but they refused to co-operate. Lastly, having spent time in the past studying many religious paintings (thank you OU), I found the pedal bin diptych brilliantly subversive.

We visited the Tate Modern yesterday for the first time with our children - aged 6 & 3. We absolutely loved the exhibition, it was great to be able to explain to our older daughter how the images were made up and she pointed out some images without panels, which I'd not picked out! My husband loved the pieces and to be able to see them at such close range was great. Our younger daughter was slightly bored, but that's no surprise at her age, but she loved the Mickey Mouse picture and wanted to keep going back. So she now has her own Mickey postcard for her room! We shall be returning later this year for the Lowry exhibition as my daughter is in Lowry class at school. We have told anyone we know to see the exhibition before it ends next week if they can! Thank you.

The exhibition was superb !!!!! We really enjoyed it ! Great great great !!!

I loved the exhibition and was so glad I had taken the time out of a busy working week to attend. The larger paintings needed to be viewed from a distance, as the larger dots definitely affected one's eyes. How clever and intricate. Loved the Chinese paintings in particular, but loved the whole exhibition, to be honest.

Amazing exhibition and so wonderful to be presented with the iconic Lichtenstein's in the fourth room. One of my highlights was Lichtenstein's Rouen Cathedral. Having seen the Monet exhibition in Paris, I was surprised to see the Lichtensteins having a similar impact. The sculpture a delightful surprise. One of the best exhibitions I've seen at the Tate .