Roy Lichtenstein was the pioneer of the new art movement in the 1960s Manhattan, along with names like Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and so on. He is famous with his comic book style paintings with Ben-Day dots and hard-edged figures with a striking aesthetic quality. His works mock the popular American advertisement and consumer culture.
Son of an upper-middle class Jewish family in New York, Lichtenstein studied Fine Arts in Ohio State University in the 1940s. In 1950s he was travelling between New York and Cleveland; he had solo exhibitions in New York and he undertook temporary jobs between painting periods to care for his family. His style at this time was between Cubism and Expressionism. In 1957 he moved permanently to New York and started teaching. Albeit a little later than his contemporaries, he also adopted Abstract Expressionism and started including cartoon characters in his works for the first time. It wasn’t until he painted Look Mickey (1961), his first work with Ben-Day Dots and cartoon style, that he rose to prominence.
Famous New York gallerist Leo Castelli started showing his works in his space in 1961 and the entire collection was bought by affluent collectors before the exhibition even opened. From here onwards, he gained international celebrity and painted his most famous works like the Drowning Girl (1963), which is the peak of his style: oil on Magna (early acrylic) paint featuring thick outlines, bold colors and Ben-Day dots. At the time he was harshly criticized by art critics for creating “vulgar and empty” works. The title of a Life magazine article in 1964 asked, “Is He the Worst Artist in the U.S.?” Although this made Lichtenstein question himself, he never took himself too seriously and kept his consistent style.
Collectors seem to be pleased by it because his works sell for record numbers at auctions. Women with Flowered Hat, which was a mischievous take on a Picasso portrait, sold for $56.1 million at Christie’s in 2013, which was a record for the artist. This record was broken by his dramatic work “Nurse” when it sold for $95,365,000 in 2015.