Contemporary Art, 1960s–present

Pop Art

Why did Roy Lichtenstein paint comic book images?

Roy Lichtenstein (1923—1997), whose early work reflected interest in Cubism and abstract expressionism, began to make his comic-book paintings in the 1960s. With paintings such as Whaam! (1963) and Eddie Diptych (1962), Lichtenstein transformed comic images into monumental works of fine art by enlarging them and rendering them with the so-called “Ben Day” dots used to print newspaper images. His approach has been described by some critics as a parody, but one in line with the goals of pop art. While Lichtenstein was able to transform the “low” art of comic books into fine art paintings, he also did the opposite. His Yellow Brushstroke (1965) depicts a single smear of yellow paint with so much detail it becomes nearly laughable, and completely banal. He also converted famous masterpieces, such as Vincent van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles (1888), into his iconic comic style. One of Lichtenstein’s goals in creating these comic-like images was to encourage the viewer to question the way supposedly realistic paintings accurately depict reality.

Roy Lichtenstein is perhaps most well known for his comic style paintings, such as his Eddie Diptych from 1962. Lichtenstein’s work is an example of pop art, as it incorporates bold colors and styles drawn from popular culture and advertising. (Art courtesy The Art Archive / Gianni Dagli Orti, © the Roy Lichtenstein Estate.)


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