Roy Lichtenstein


1923, New York, New York
1997, New York, New York


Although trained as an abstract painter, Roy Lichtenstein became a pioneer of Pop art famed for paintings based on generic romance books and war comics. Lichtenstein transferred the clichéd comic-book compositions to canvas with a projector and simplified them; the resulting paintings mimic the impersonal appearance of cheap four-color printing, despite being meticulously handmade. Characteristic of this work are the enlarged benday dots that would become Lichtenstein's signature mark.

Lichtenstein abandoned working on comics paintings by the mid-1960s, but he retained a lifelong interest in the mass media. His later work often addressed how an artwork's meaning changed when it was reproduced and distributed as a commercial image.

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The artist on how comics inspired his paintings

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Roy Lichtenstein is famous for using Benday dots— the tiny dots of color that make up images in commercial printing and newspapers. Like other Pop artists, Lichtenstein brought commercial images into a fine art context. He used Benday dots to imitate comic strips and later, modern art classics. Roy Lichtenstein.


The cartoon form means a couple of things to me. It means a sort of data— a minimal way of presenting information, through dots. You know, it has to do just with modern ideas or something. Then it means that it’s ersatz. It’s fake. Whatever I’m producing— if it’s a Picasso, or a brush stroke— it’s a fake one, because it’s a cartoon of it. Then it’s a modern, industrialized texture— the dots against the clear, against the unmodulated areas of the painting.


Lichtenstein was also famous for paintings based on comic books. To make them, he transferred comics to canvas with a projector and simplified them. People didn’t get it at first, as Lichtenstein said.


It took three months or so for people to realize that I was doing paintings, and they weren’t really the same as the cartoons. It wasn’t exactly the same thing.

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