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Was Roy Lichtenstein an innovator or imitator?

Pop Art legend Roy Lichtenstein made his name during the 1950s and 1960s with elaborate comic book excerpts, largely painted in flat, bold colors and decorated with his trademark Ben-Day dots. Today his distinctive style, which features sentimental women, fighter jets, and onomatopoeic words extensively, has become ubiquitous with the Pop Art movement. Like many Pop Art and Postmodern artists, Lichtenstein relied on ‘appropriation’ to create his art, picking up pre-existing imagery and transforming it into works of art. But in recent decades, the artist has faced opposition from comic book artists, whose illustrations he turned into works of art worth several million dollars, while some have even accused him of outright plagiarism. We take a look at the case for and against Lichtenstein’s art process.

Lichtenstein modified the original images

Lichtenstein’s pencil sketch design for Wham!, 1963

One of the strongest arguments in Lichtenstein’s defense is that he edited and revised comic book excerpts to put the stamp of his identity on the individual works of art he was working on. Lichtenstein had a multi-step process for designing and completing his artworks. After choosing a comic-book scene to replicate, he made a series of pencil sketches to redesign the original. He then projected his new design onto the canvas using a projector and traced the outline. When filling in the design, he used rulers and stencils to achieve a seamless, digital finish.


Wow! By Roy Lichtenstein, 1963, Tate, Irv Novick’s original comic book page for The Star Jockey, 1962

Some examples of Lichtenstein’s reimagined artworks from specific comic book pages include Wow!, While the basic motif was taken from a comic book by Irv Novick, Lichtenstein made several changes to Novick’s design, such as removing the mountains and additional fighter planes, and changing the colors so that they went from red to yellow to increase their dramatic impact. Change in color. ,

In the Car, Roy Lichtenstein, 1962 (detail), Jack Kirby’s illustration for Girls Romance, 1960s

during this time in the car, Taken from the comic book series girls romanceLichtenstein removes the text, dramatically changes the color scheme, and changes the expression on the man’s face to one of great menace.

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It is also worth noting the role scale had to play in understanding Lichtenstein’s art. By transforming what was once a small frame into a massive work of art, the image becomes something new, which can be read and understood in a different way.

Some of his work is very close to the original

Look Mickey by Roy Lichtenstein, 1961, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

As explained in a recent documentary titled Wow! Shortcoming! Roy Lichtenstein and the art of appropriation, 2022, directed by James L. Hussey, many of Lichtenstein’s artworks were remarkably similar to the original comic book illustrations. This means that some comic book artists, whose ideas Lichtenstein disliked, are naturally angry at the lack of recognition.

Comic book artist Dave Gibbons, who illustrated the graphic novel watchman, said in an interview with the BBC in 2013, “I’m not sure it’s art. Much of Lichtenstein’s material is so close to the original that it actually owes a great debt to the original artist’s work. Comparing it with music, he said, “…you can’t whistle someone else’s tune, no matter how bad, without giving credit to the original artist or getting paid.”

it changes the purpose of the image

Modern Art I by Roy Lichtenstein, 1996

One argument for Lichtenstein’s art relates to how he transposed the original function of the image, thereby translating it into a new kind of object. Brayford R. Collins, professor of art history at the University of South Carolina, argues of Lichtenstein’s art, “It is not plagiarism. This is appropriation. With plagiarism, you are stealing someone’s work and using it for the same purpose as they did. If Lichtenstein made comic books with it it would be theft. But appropriation means you’re taking something and reusing it for a very different purpose, taking something out of a comic book and making it into a painting.

As his career progressed, Lichtenstein’s pop culture references became increasingly fragmented, and often merged with elements of art historical imagination, from the work of Pablo Picasso to the art of Claude Monet, proving that his The entire practice was built around the concept of Viniyoga.

In this context, we can see Lichtenstein’s art as part of a broader continuum of appropriation. The history of art is replete with examples of other artists who also worked on how transforming found imagery, motifs or the function of objects can allow us to appreciate them as something entirely new, from Manet to. Olympia1863, which reproduced Titian Venus of Urbino1534, for Marcel Duchamp waterfall1917, which transformed a urinal into a sculpture through the smallest of interventions.

Lichtenstein made millions from others’ ideas

The Fountain, 1917, by Marcel Duchamp, via reproduction 1964, Tate, London

It cannot be denied that Lichtenstein made millions of dollars from the sale of his art during his lifetime. This fact in particular has angered many of the comic book artists whose ideas he re-imagined, especially considering that many of them spent their entire lives with modest means. Comic book artist Hai Eiseman, one of whose drawings was appropriated by Lichtenstein, argued, “I worked like a dog on this stupid page and [Lichtenstein] It has $20 million to show for it. “It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.”

His ‘copycat’ art is a symbol of the postmodern era

Drowning Girl by Roy Lichtenstein, 1963, reportedly worth $94.4 million (Christie’s auction 2015)

Lichtenstein is by no means the only artist to reshape imagery designed by others in the name of art. In fact, his approach reflects the post-modern era, which began with the Pop art of Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, and many others, leading to Photorealism during the 1970s and the Pictish Generation of the 1970s and 1980s. Took towards. Whether you like it or not, most of the images in the public eye cannot be saved from being reused in a variety of creative ways, especially during the digital age when so much visual content is at the tip of our fingers.

Source: www.thecollector.com

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