For Roy Lichtenstein, who was both an artist and an educator, one of his goals was to pass along history and culture from generation to generation.
His art swept through popular culture during the 1960s and is still relevant, more than fifty years later.
One of the most popular costumes for millennials, who were just children when Lichtenstein died in 1997, is a Lichtenstein look. There are tutorials, for both men and women, on how to become a Lichtenstein ben-day dot character. The pathos of the crying woman and the aloofness of the Lichtenstein man still speaks to us today.
“Well, my purpose, whether I succeed or not of course, I suppose will be up to history,” Lichtenstein said “but my purpose is entirely aesthetic, and relationships and unity are the thing I’m really after.”
Lichtenstein and History
Two of the most extraordinary TIME magazine covers in history were done by Lichtenstein in 1968. He was commissioned to do one cover for a story about Robert F. Kennedy, who was on the campaign trail as the Democratic Party nominee for president, and a second cover for a story about guns in America.
The TIME magazine story about Bobby Kennedy, and his bid for the White House, was published on May 24, 1968. Kennedy was shot just eight days later. “I also did a gun cover—the issue about gun control.” Lichtenstein said. “In fact, I made them both at the same time, and then Kennedy was shot. Which was pretty shocking. I had done the gun before he was shot and they published it afterward.”
The June 21st edition of TIME, with Lichtenstein’s chilling cover image of a smoking gun, pointed at the viewer, read, in part, “All too widely, the country is regarded as a blood-drenched, continent-wide shooting range where toddlers blast off with real rifles, housewives pack pearl-handled revolvers…”
Still Provocative and Evocative
Lichtenstein’s work still resonates with us because of his ability to capture emotions and experiences that we can all relate to. He elevated common objects and themes to the level of fine art.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Lichtenstein would have been very flattered to see all the YouTube tutorials on how to look like a Lichtenstein. Actually, he would have been very surprised to see YouTube at all, which didn’t exist during his lifetime. It’s to his credit that he has left a body of work that is still relatable, thought provoking…and imitated.