Roy Lichtenstein’s Early Pop Art Masterpieces

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In this 1966 video featuring American pop art legend Roy Lichtenstein, the artist explains his approach to creating his comic strip paintings and other works that not only parodied a commercial style, but were also created in that style. By joining flat areas of color and pulp-inspired Ben-Day dots, Lichtenstein alluded to “modern industrial textures,” removing all nostalgia and reference to European and American painting up to his time.

The National Gallery of Art is honoring the artist’s work in a major retrospective that will include more than 100 paintings from various points in Lichtenstein’s career. Works include his early pop art masterpieces like Look Mickey — which pioneered the style Lichtenstein is now famous for — to his, perhaps, lesser known Chinese landscapes, drawings, and sculptures.

The show marks the first major exhibition since Lichtenstein’s death in 1997 — a period during which the painter was focused on nude portraits — and gives visitors a chance to get close to some rarely seen pieces. While Lichtenstein’s best has been mined for card shop collectibles, umbrellas, and t-shirts — alongside fellow pop art star Andy Warhol — the NGA aims to shed light on the 20th-century artist in a broader context.

The museum was kind enough to share a preview of Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective with us, which we’ve featured past the break. Visit the National Gallery of Art from October 14 through January 13 to see more great artworks.

Roy LichtensteinMasterpiece, 1962 oil on canvas overall: 137.2 x 137.2 cm (54 x 54 in.) Agnes Gund Collection, New York © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Roy LichtensteinBrushstrokes, 1965 oil and Magna on canvas overall: 122.5 x 122.5 cm (48 1/4 x 48 1/4 in.) Private collection © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Roy LichtensteinNude with Street Scene, 1995 oil and Magna on canvas overall: 121.9 x 171.5 cm (48 x 67 1/2 in.) Collection Simonyi © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Roy LichtensteinSunrise, 1965 oil and Magna on canvas overall: 91.4 x 172.7 cm (36 x 68 in.) Private collection © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Roy LichtensteinThe Ring (Engagement), 1962 oil on canvas overall: 121.9 x 177.8 cm (48 x 70 in.) Stefan T. Edlis Collection © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Roy LichtensteinOhhh…Alright…, 1964 oil and Magna on canvas overall: 91.4 x 96.5 cm (36 x 38 in.) Private collection © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Roy LichtensteinOh, Jeff…I Love You, Too…But…, 1964 oil and Magna on canvas overall: 121.9 x 121.9 cm (48 x 48 in.) Collection Simonyi © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Roy LichtensteinDrowning Girl, 1963 oil and Magna on canvas overall: 171.6 x 169.5 cm (67 9/16 x 66 3/4 in.) The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Philip Johnson Fund (by exchange) and gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bagley Wright, 1971 © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Roy LichtensteinArtist’s Studio “Look Mickey”, 1973 oil, Magna, and sand with aluminum powder and Magna medium on canvas overall: 243.8 x 325.1 cm (96 x 128 in.) Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Gift of Judy and Kenneth Dayton and the T.B. Walker Foundation, 1981 © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Roy LichtensteinLook Mickey, 1961 oil on canvas Overall: 121.9 x 175.3 cm (48 x 69 in.) framed: 123.5 x 176.9 x 5.1 cm (48 5/8 x 69 5/8 x 2 in.) National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Roy and Dorothy Lichtenstein in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art © Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Roy LichtensteinKeds, 1961 oil on canvas overall: 123.2 x 88.3 cm (48 1/2 x 34 3/4 in.) The Robert B. Mayer Family Collection, Chicago © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Roy LichtensteinAs I Opened Fire (Panel 3 of 3), 1964 oil and Magna on canvas panel: 172.7 x 142.2 cm (68 x 56 in.) Stedlelijk Museum, Amsterdam © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein