Roy Lichtenstein

Atom Burst

Lichtenstein Atom Burst Modern Art Museum Of Fort Worth 1500 - © test
  • Roy Lichtenstein
  • Atom Burst
  • 1965
  • Acrylic on board
  • 61 x 61 cm
  • Collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, The Benjamin J. Tillar Memorial Trust © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016. Photo: Kevin Todora - © test

A central figure in the development of pop art in America, Roy Lichtenstein abandoned any trace of the conventional painterly mark in favor of works that adopted the depersonalized, mechanical appearance of their mass-media sources. Appropriating frames from popular serialized comics, particularly those devoted to pulpy romance and heroic war stories, Lichtenstein reproduced these isolated narrative fragments on the monumental scale of history paintings. Though the works were actually executed by hand, dot by dot, and the artist typically altered the compositions of the original story frames, these paintings created the scandalous (and false) impression that he had simply transcribed commercial imagery onto canvas, collapsing distinctions between high and low culture.

In the mid-1960s, Lichtenstein expanded his lexicon of subjects beyond imagery directly derived from comic books to include a range of commercial and mass media sources, although he continued to follow the aesthetic codes of cheap printed matter, as seen in Atomic Burst (1965): thick black outlines, flat colors, and stenciled patterning that mimics the Ben-Day dots of low-resolution halftone printing. Lichtenstein portrays the rising mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb as a cartoon explosion, using the visual language of popular entertainment to depict an iconic symbol of death and destruction. Here, the image of the mushroom cloud is both instantly recognizable and generic, represented less as an emblem of human tragedy than as a widely circulated visual trope.

Rachel Wetzler

Biography of Roy Lichtenstein

  • Born 1923 in New York, NY, USA
  • Died 1997 in New York, NY, USA

Roy Lichtenstein (fox) was one of the first and most widely recognized Pop artists. He studied at the Art Students League of New York in 1940. His college career was interrupted by military service during World War II, but he returned to Ohio State University in 1945 to complete his BFA and earn a master’s degree (1949). He later held teaching positions there and at other colleges. After his graduation he began to work in series and to adopt iconographies from printed images, and had his first solo show at the Carlebach Gallery, New York, in 1951. In 1960 he began to incorporate themes and images from mass media and developed a unique style by mimicking a basic newspaper reproduction process (using Ben-Day dots), thus blending mechanical reproduction and hand drawing techniques. He was part of the first group of Pop artists, owing to a much-noticed exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, in 1962. His first retrospectives, in the late 1960s, were held at the Pasadena Art Museum; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Lichtenstein’s body of work includes more than 5,000 paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, and murals.