How it Began

Early in his career, Roy Lichtenstein had done abstract expressionist paintings, with comic book characters embedded in the canvas, but it wasn’t until he began to strengthen his lines and use Ben Day dots to show texture and color, that his style became his own.

“What I did in these early paintings was frightening to me, really.” he said,”It seemed to go counter to a sense of taste I had developed, along with, I had hoped, a sense of art. Except I knew it had meaning and I new, very shortly, it had more meaning than the things I’d done before. But because it was so different, it was really frightening.”

In 1962, Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist were, independently, using comics and commercial pop subjects in their paintings, but it was Lichtenstein’s work that became the first exhibition of comic book paintings to be exhibited at the Leo Castelli gallery in February of 1962. The show sold out and Lichtenstein’s reputation as a pop artists was established. Leo Castelli became Lichtenstein’s art dealer from the time of that first exhibition until his death in 1997, although they never signed a formal or entered into a legal agreement for representation. It was a partnership built on trust.

Finding the Familiar

There is an element of coolness and aloofness in his paintings, partly because of his industrial, draftsman-like style, and partly because of the tongue-in-cheek way he portrayed his subjects.

Looking back at Lichtenstein’s work, more than half a century later, there’s a nostalgia and warmth that mid-century museum and gallery patrons might not have felt. Keds, the Step-on Can with Leg, Sandwich and Soda and the ruffled curtains in Portrait with Still Life feel very American, with a hint of the 1940s. Keds have been around since 1916 and the kitchen ‘pedal bin’ since 1924. The images are modern and Pop, for sure, but also soothing and familiar, like comfort food.

Lichtenstein’s work looks as wonderful today as it did when he created it. If you’re lucky enough to be in LA in the next few weeks, there’s still time to see the Lichtenstein retrospective at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Roy Lichtenstein for sale at VFA

We have some fine examples of Lichtenstein’s work at VFA. Please come in or contact us if you would like more information about the Lichtenstein works in our gallery.