Lichtenstein at the National Gallery

Roy Lichtenstein, a Manhattan native, created some of the most instantly recognizable artwork in the world. He grew up in New York, attended the Art Students League, and served three years in the Army during WWII. And though he passed away in 1997, his artwork is still attracting audiences. The most recent exhibition featuring his work is at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.


Lichtenstein was one of the primary artists involved in the Pop Art movement of the sixties, along with Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, and Jasper Johns. His early paintings are of everyday images snipped from newspapers and magazines. He eventually began creating thematic series and exploring the black and white color palette. He first represented Disney characters and later moved on to DC Comics’ array of young women.


When Pop Art began decreasing in popularity, he stuck with his basic style but moved on to making personal homages to history and its prominent figures, though they have been criticized for being superficial in meaning.


The display of Lichtensteins at the National Gallery, however, is interesting in that it seems to be a set of self-honoring paintings. This is particularly interesting since he is well known for wishing to keep his personal life and his professional life separate. This series, painted in 1974, challenges that ideal with paintings that depict a studio (presumably his) filled with art—much of it his own.


Constantly compared to Andy Warhol, well known for changing the face of art in America. Lichtenstein did as well, but not in such a strong way. Still, his unique style is still “cool,” and smart. It’s instantly recognizable and enjoyed by all—collectors, connoisseurs, and the public as well. It may not be “deep,” but it certainly seems to have an unflinching appeal.


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