Roy Lichtenstein was a well known pop artist, born in New York City on October 27, 1923. He was of Jewish heritage and his lifestyle was upper-middle class, whereas he grew up on the Upper West Side as a young man. Lichtenstein’s father was a real estate broker and his mother was a housewife, and they provided him with the opportunities to study in good schools. He originally took up art as a hobby in high school, but he decided upon graduation to enroll at the Art Student League of New York’s summer art classes.
Lichtenstein was accepted at Ohio State University, which he’d applied to because they had a program for a fine arts degree and studio courses. He didn’t get to attend there for very long, as in 1943 he was called into the army to do his duty during World War II. He was enlisted for three years, serving as a draftsman, an orderly and also an artist. In 1946 he was released from duty to return home, as his father was dying; he received G.I. Bill benefits to use for his education when he was discharged. Lichtenstein went back to Ohio State University where he was taught by Hoyt L. Sherman, the man who had the greatest influence on Lichtenstein’s career.
The Carlebach Gallery was the first place that Lichtenstein held his first solo exhibition, and that was in 1951. His paintings during the next decade fluctuated between Expressionism, Cubism,and then Abstract Expressionism. He took a teaching job at State University of New York at Oswego in 1958, and then a teaching position at Rutgers University in 1961. Allan Kaprow also taught there, and the environment at Rutgers and in the artist circles influenced Lichtenstein to return to pop art.
The 1960’s was a big time for pop artists like Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, as well as Lichtenstein and others. Leo Castelli, a gallery owner was a leading representative of pop and abstract art, and he held many exhibitions for artists who wanted to establish themselves in those growing art movements. Lichtenstein soon became famous for his large comic-strip-like works and parodies of advertising styles. He liked to use large Ben-Day dots for an illusional effect, thick lines and bold colors like in Look, Mickey (1961), Drowning Girl (1963), and other paintings of daily-life items. At one of his gallery showings, all of his paintings were sold before the event even began. Possibly his most famous painting and one of the earliest examples of pop art is Whaam! (1963).
Lichtenstein continued to paint sought-after works until the mid-1990s, while incorporating a 3-part short film series, sculptures, still life paintings, and over 300 prints (mainly by screen-printing) and drawings into his oeuvre. His success as an artist was complete, both in fame and fortune. He was fine until August 1997, when he contracted pneumonia; he had been hospitalized in New York for several weeks before succombing to its devastating effects on September 29, 1997.