Roy Lichtenstein | 10 Interesting Facts About The Pop Artist


Pop art includes imagery from popular culture, such as, advertising, cartoons, news etc. as opposed to elitist culture. It was among the dominant art movements of the twentieth century. Roy Lichtenstein was an American pop artist who was among the leading figures of this art movement. Here are 10 interesting facts about him.

#1 Initially Roy Lichtenstein was not a comic book enthusiast

Roy Lichtenstein
Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein was born on October 27, 1923 in a Jewish family. As a boy he was not a comic book fan although later, comic strips would provide inspiration for his best known works.

#2 He started as a Cubist Artist

Roy Lichtenstein’s initially worked in Cubism and Abstract Expressionism. By late 1950s, however, his works included hidden images of cartoon characters.


#3 His son drove him towards Pop Art

His 1961 painting Look Mickey is regarded as the bridge between his Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art works. He created the painting after his son challenged him by pointing out to a Mickey Mouse comic book and saying, “I bet you can’t paint as good as that, eh, Dad?”

Look Mickey by Roy Lichtenstein
Look Mickey by Roy Lichtenstein


#4 Art critics severely criticized his work and called him a copycat

First time his work was exhibited it was heavily criticized by art critics and the Life magazine went to the extent of publishing an article whose title asked “Is He the Worst Artist in the U.S.?” Lichtenstein was also called a copycat by many as his works closely resembled the originals. With time, however, he was considered as one of the greatest artists of the Pop Art Movement.

As I Opened Fire by Roy Lichtenstein
As I Opened Fire by Roy Lichtenstein


#5 ‘Whaam!’ is Roy Lichtenstein’s most famous painting

Lichtenstein’s ‘Whaam!’ is an iconic work of the Pop Art movement and perhaps his most famous painting. ‘Whaam!’ is one of the several works by Roy which depict aerial combat. Lichtenstein had a three year stint in the United States army from 1943 to 1946. During that stint, he was sent to pilot training but the program was cancelled. The other monumental war painting by Lichtenstein is ‘As I Opened Fire’.

Whaam! by Roy Lichtenstein
Whaam! by Roy Lichtenstein


#6 The cartoon artist of ‘Whaam!’ helped Roy during his stint in the army

The original artist of ‘Whaam!’ was American comic-book illustrator Irv Novick, who incidentally, was an officer at the army boot camp where Lichtenstein trained during the Second World War. After recognizing Roy’s talent Novick had moved Roy from latrine-mopping duty and got him designing signs and posters instead. Ironically, years later, Lichtenstein turned his illustration into a masterpiece.

Comic book panel which inspired 'Whamm!' - drawn by Irv Novick
Comic book panel which inspired ‘Whamm!’ – drawn by Irv Novick


#7 Lichtenstein made a film

Along with American filmmaker Joel Freedman, Lichtenstein made a film which was titled ‘Three Landscapes’. It was a three-screen installation which was related to the series of landscape themed collages he produced between 1964 and 1966.  Though Lichtenstein had planned of making 15 short films, Three Landscape was to be his only venture in the medium.

Three Landscapes by Roy Lichtenstein
A Detail from Roy Lichtenstein’s Three Landscapes


#8 Lichtenstein’s highest selling painting is ‘Woman with Flowered Hat’

The record for the highest auction price for a Roy Lichtenstein work is held by the 1963 painting ‘Woman with Flowered Hat’ which fetched $56.1 million in May 2013. The painting is based on Pablo Picasso’s ‘Dora Maar au Chat (Dora Maar with Cat)’ which, at $95.2 million, is one of the most expensive paintings in the world.

Woman with Flowered Hat by Roy Lichtenstein
Woman with Flowered Hat by Roy Lichtenstein


#9 ‘Drowning Girl’ by Lichtenstein is considered a ‘masterpiece of melodrama’

‘Drowning Girl’ or ‘I Don’t Care! I’d Rather Sink’ is regarded among Lichtenstein’s most important works, perhaps as significant as ‘Whaam!’ A thought bubble in the painting conveys that the central figure would rather drown than call her lover Brad for help. One of the most famous works of Pop Art, it has been often described as a ‘masterpiece of melodrama’. The source of the painting is Tony Abruzzo’s splash page from “Run for Love!” in Secret Hearts. Lichtenstein also acknowledged that the wave is adapted from Japanese artist Hokusai’s famous print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa.

Drowning Girl by Roy Lichtenstein
Drowning Girl by Roy Lichtenstein


#10 Roy was in ‘awe of women’

Roy got married twice. In 1949 he married Isabel Wilson and after divorcing her in 1965, he married Dorothy Herzka, in 1968. According to his second wife, Roy was in ‘awe of women’. “He had more female friends than male friends and he may have thought that women were smarter than men, in general.” Roy painted a series of studies of nude woman, although, it is not very well known.

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