A Retrospective on Lichtenstein’s Retro Perspective

by: Kate Messinger

October 22, 2012

The bold colors, thick lines, geometric textures, and cartoon inspired content of Roy Litchenstein’s pop art can be recognized anywhere: a style that now defines the 60′s generation and represents a retro view of great artists before. A traveling retrospective of Lichtenstein’s work, now at the National Gallery in Washington DC, is a walk through the defining work of the classic American artist with pit stops at some of his work that fell below the radar.

Roy Lichtenstein Retrospective The National Gallery Pop Art

With inspirations from Picasso and Matisse, Lichtenstein  translated 20th century modern art into an even more modern, commercial, poster-ready pop art, creating a style that is still distinctly his. However, there are other parts of Lichtenstein’s story, before the comic book style “women in distress” canvases and after the graphic monochromatic sculptures, that show another side of the iconic artist’s vision.

The artist developed his unique pop culture inspired comic style by drawing Micky Mouse, then moved to redrawing images seen in magazine ads, like Keds or a woman selling lipstick, enlarged them and then painted them on to canvas using a dot texture to fill in the thick lines: the look of cheap newsprint. This technique, bold and eye catching, is still recognizable to almost anyone, no matter their knowledge of art history.

The exhibit also takes the viewer beyond this specific kind of pop art to paintings that represent the enlarged perspective on human consumer with Lichtenstein’s series of un-reflecting mirrors. They show another side to the artist’s iconic work, an ability to look inside, at the painter and viewer, instead of always having to put on a big, bright show.


The Roy Lichtenstein Retrospective will run through January 13th, 2013 at the National Gallery in Washington DC. 


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