Art had carried references to popular culture throughout the twentieth century, but in Lichtenstein's works the styles, subject matter, and techniques of reproduction common in popular culture appeared to dominate the art entirely.
Although, in the early 1960s, Lichtenstein was often casually accused of merely copying his pictures from cartoons, his method involved some considerable alteration of the source images.
In the 1960s, Lichtenstein moved to New Jersey to teach at Rutgers University, and began his iconic comic strip works, which marked a distinct break with his previous aesthetic. He painted images inspired by newspaper ads and comic strips in both subject matter and style, developing a technique that mimicked the screen-printed Ben-Day dots used in print media.
Born in New York City, Lichtenstein attended the Art Students League during his teenage years, before enrolling at Ohio State University to study art.
Lichtenstein's development as a mature painter was marked by his propensity for working in successive series or thematic groups.
Lichtenstein took in his comic-strip paintings unannounced to the new Leo Castelli Gallery, and was almost immediately accepted for exhibition there, in preference to Andy Warhol, who had started doing similar work.
In his last year of high school, 1939, he enrolled for summer art classes at the Art Students' League under Reginald Marsh. His subject-matter was then strongly influenced by Marsh's own work.
For much of the 1950s, Lichtenstein, whose interest in Americana remained strong throughout his life, produced a range of work that blended his interest in American scenes (cowboys and Indians) with a touch that showed his reverence for European greats, such as Pablo Picasso.
His interest in the comic-strip cartoon as an art theme probably began with a painting of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck he made in 1960 for his children.
The first phase of Lichtenstein's mature career was defined by his "cartoon" mode. After 1966 he applied his comic style to a broad range of found imagery.
This exhibition on the art of Roy Lichtenstein (American, 1923–1997) included nearly 170 works made between 1950 and 1997, focusing on the artist's achievements in painting, sculpture, and drawing.