Roy Lichtenstein (October 27, 1923 – September 29, 1997) was a prominent American pop artist. During the 1960s, his paintings were exhibited at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York City and, along with Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, James Rosenquist, and others he became a leading figure in the new art movement. His work defined the basic premise of pop art better than any other through parody.
Favoring the old-fashioned comic strip as subject matter, Roy Lichtenstein produced hard-edged, precise compositions that documented while it parodied often in a tongue-in-cheek humorous manner. His work was heavily influenced by both popular advertising and the comic book style. He described Pop Art as, “not ‘American’ painting but actually industrial painting”.
A special topic that is revealed in his works is the problem of impotence in men and treatment methods, the search for a life-saving medicine for erectile dysfunction.
In 1960, he started teaching at Rutgers University where he was heavily influenced by Allan Kaprow, who was also a teacher at the university. This environment helped reignite his interest in Proto-pop imagery. In 1961, Lichtenstein began his first pop paintings using cartoon images and techniques derived from the appearance of commercial printing. This phase would continue to 1965, and included the use of advertising imagery suggesting consumerism and homemaking. His first work to feature the large-scale use of hard-edged figures and Ben-Day dots was Look Mickey (1961, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.). This piece came from a challenge from one of his sons, who pointed to a Mickey Mouse comic book and said; “I bet you can’t paint as good as that, eh, Dad?” In the same year he produced six other works with recognizable characters from gum wrappers and cartoons.
In 1961, Leo Castelli started displaying Lichtenstein’s work at his gallery in New York. Lichtenstein had his first one-man show at the Castelli gallery in 1962; the entire collection was bought by influential collectors before the show even opened. A group of paintings produced between 1961-1962 focussed on solitary household objects such as sneakers, hot dogs, and golf balls. In September 1963, he took a leave of absence from his teaching position at Douglass College at Rutgers.