Anti All Those Brilliant Ideas: Roy Lichtenstein


Monday marked the 11th anniversary of the death of American artist Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997). Though Lichtenstein became synonymous with Pop Art, he also created more traditional paintings, including scenes of the American West. Some other things you may not know about him:

1. On February 9, 1943, Roy Lichtenstein entered active duty in the U.S. Army. Originally, he was going to do the Army Special Training Program (ASTP) for languages, but the Army cut the languages program. He then began the engineering ASTP with 24 weeks of math and science classes, only for the Army to cancel that program. At Keesler Air Force Base, Lichtenstein began a pilot-training program, but, of course, that program was soon canceled, too. Finally, Lichtenstein served as a draftsman and artist, enlarging cartoons from Stars & Strips and drawing maps.

2. In 1961, one of Lichtenstein's two sons challenged his dad, pointing to a Mickey Mouse comic book and charging, "I bet you can't paint as good as that, eh, Dad?" In response, Lichtenstein created "Look Mickey," his first work to feature large-scale use of hard-edged figures and Benday dots—a method that would become his trademark style. (Lichtensein incorporated "Look Mickey" into his later painting, "Artist's Studio No. 1," shown above.)

3. While others may call Lichtenstein's work "Pop Art," he himself described his work as "anti-experimental, and anti-contemplative, anti-nuance, anti-getting-away-from-the-tyranny-of-the-rectangle, anti-movement-and-light, anti-mystery, anti-paint-quality, anti-Zen, and anti all of those brilliant ideas of preceding movements which everyone understands so thoroughly."

4. For the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Lichtenstein was commissioned to create Barcelona Head, a 64-foot-high sculpture made of colored ceramic tiles. The sculpture was installed on the site of the naval yard where Christopher Columbus once docked his ships.

5. TIME magazine featured Lichtenstein works on at least two covers. The first was a commissioned painting of Robert F. Kennedy for the May 24, 1968, issue. Just about a month later, a Lichtenstein rendering of a gun, based on his 1964 "Pistol," accompanied the cover story, "The Gun in America."

Thanks go out to reader Corrine for suggesting a post on Roy Lichtenstein!

A larger version of "Artist's Studio No. 1 (Look Mickey)" is available here. Fans should check out the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation and its Image Duplicator (Lichtenstein art work search engine); Lichtenstein's mural for the NYC MTA; the NGA's kids guide to Lichtenstein; and this Polaroid of Lichtenstein by Andy Warhol. "Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can e-mail us at with artist suggestions or details of current exhibitions.