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Roy Lichtenstein Biography for Kids

Image of painting of cartoon of a duck in a blue suit and hat (Donald Duck) and a Mouse in a red shirt and shoes and blue pants (Mickey Mouse) with fishing rods. There is a conversation bubble by the duck that says, "Look Mickey! I've hooked a big one!!" Below this is a blue rectangle. In the blue rectangle are the words "Roy Lichtenstein Biography for Kids." Below are two more paintings of Roy Lichtenstein: one of a cartoon image of large red paint brushstrokes, and one of a cartoon plane crashing with a large word in block letter, "Blam!" There is also a   black and white photo of a man with short hair wearing a turtle neck and dark jacket, who is Roy Lichtenstein.

Hi there! My name is Roy Lichtenstein. I am an artist who helped start the genre of Pop Art.

Black and white photo of man (Roy Lichtenstein) with a high forehead and his hair combed to the side. He is wearing a turtleneck and suit jacket. In the background is the large painting of a cartoon image of a plane.
Roy Lichtenstein

I was born in New York City in 1923.

Image of northeast part of United States. The states are white and unlabeled except New York is grey and labeled in red. There is also a red dot indicating the location of New York City, which is also labeled.

Growing up, I was interested in drawing and science and the way mechanical things worked. I lived near the American Museum of Natural History, so I spent hours exploring the exhibits of dinosaurs, plants, animals, bugs, mummies, stars and planets.

Image of two-story brown building with columns, steps leading up to the entrance, and a statue out front. There is also a large spider over the front entrance and banners hanging.
American Museum of Natural History

I read science magazines and listened to radio programs – if you can believe it, there was no such thing as television when I was a boy – and my favorite radio show was the science-fiction adventures of Flash Gordon.

Image of cartoon image with red background and two figures The one on the left is wearing a red shirt and black pants, and the one on the right is in a blue suit with a yellow cape. They are fighting with swords. Across the top of the image are black and yellow letters that say Flash Gordon.

In high school, I decided I wanted to be an artist, so I studied art in college at Ohio State University and became an art teacher. I was influenced by Pablo Picasso…

Black and white photograph of a bald older man in a white and black striped shirt
Pablo Picasso

…and Fernand Leger…

Image of a man with short dark hair and a moustache in a suit jacket and tie, sitting in front of a curtain.
Fernand Leger

…because I liked the way they used solid colors…,

Painting of an abstract painting with a red silhouette of a face, eyes and teeth, hair and neck of a woman in  random order. This is a painting by Pablo Picasso.
Bust of a Woman and Self Portrait by Pablo Picasso (Fair Use)

…flat shapes…,

Painting of blue and white striped figures and red and white striped figures with yellow and white stairs on the right side. This is the painting The Exit of the Russian Ballet by Fernand Leger.
The Exit of the Russian Ballet (1914) by Fernand Leger (Public Domain)

…and thick outlines almost like comic books.

Painting of an abstract picture of a guitar, vase and paper with thick outlines and red, blue, green and yellow colors. This is called Still Life After Picasso by Roy Lichtenstein.
Still Life After Picasso 1964 by Roy Lichtenstein (Public Domain)

So my early paintings were abstract versions of American historical events, like my version of Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware.

Painting of two boats filled with men. In the right boat the men are rowing and in the left boat tere is a man with a tricorn hat standing with another man standing slightly lower behind his and an American flag behind them. This is called Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze.
Washington Crossing the Delaware 1851 by Emanuel Leutze (Public Domain)
Painting in abstract or primitive style of two boats with a human man standing up in the left boat with two other figures on either side of him and a flag. This is called Washington Crossing the Delaware by Roy Lichtenstein.
Washington Crossing the Delaware 1951 by Roy Lichtenstein (Fair Use)

I also liked the Abstract Expressionism of Jackson Pollock, but lots of artists were copying it, so I wanted to find new ways to express myself.

Abstract painting with blue and black background and red, grey and black squiggles. This is called Stenographic Figure by Jackson Pollock.
Stenographic Figure 1942 by Jackson Pollock (Fair Use)

Since I liked looking at comic books and bubble gum wrappers with my sons, I made a painting for fun in 1961 of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck called Look Mickey. I made the colors smooth and flat without brush marks to make it look mechanically printed so it was very much the opposite of Abstract Expressionism.

Painting of cartoon of a duck in a blue suit and hat (Donald Duck) and a Mouse in a red shirt and shoes and blue pants (Mickey Mouse) with fishing rods. There is a conversation bubble by the duck that says, "Look Mickey! I've hooked a big one!!" This is called Look Mickey by Roy Lichtenstein.
Look Mickey 1961 by Roy Lichtenstein (Fair Use)

To really create the effect of printed cartoons, I even added little dots on the painting, called Benday dots.

Painting of a large up-close woman with red hair on a black phone with a conversation bubble by her head that says, "Ohhh Alright..." This is called Oh Alright by Roy Lichtenstein.
Oh Alright 1965 by Roy Lichtenstein (Fair Use)

Benday dots are used in comic books or cartoon strips to create color tints in an inexpensive way, and usually you don’t really notice all the little dots. But I liked to emphasize the Benday dots.

Abstract paointing of part of a woman's face with one eye and eyebrow and a tear coming from her eye. There is a circle shape below the part of the face and a big strand of yellow hair coming from the top of the part of the face. The face and circle are covered with tiny red dots, and in the background are diagonal blue lines. This is called Girl with Tear by Roy Lichtenstein.
Girl with Tear by Roy Lichtenstein (Fair Use)

I went on to create more paintings based on cartoons, comics, bubble gum wrappers, and newspaper ads, and I injected my sense of humor into the paintings.

Painting of a plane with a white star in a blue circle heading towards an explosion of fire and a big yellow word that says WHAAM! There is also a yellow conversation balloon that has partial sentences with the words, "Pressed the fire... control... and ahead of me rockets blazed through the sky." This is called Whaam! by Roy Lichtenstein.
Whaam! 1963 by Roy Lichtenstein (Fair Use)
Painting of a cartoon with part of a man's face and a fist coming up after hitting the face with the word Pow! There is also a conversation balloon with the words, "Sweet Dreams Baby!" This is called Sweet Dreams Baby by Roy Lichtenstein.
Sweet Dreams Baby 1965 by Roy Lichtenstein (Fair Use)

In addition to Benday dots, which became my trademark, my techniques included thick lines…,

Painting of a cartoon-like red barn with a silo to the left and a tree with green leaves and a green lawn. This is called Red Barn by Roy Lichtenstein.
Red Barn 1969 by Roy Lichtenstein (Fair Use)

…bright colors…,

Painting of a cartoon image of a man with blond hair and yellow inside of curved lines around his face. This is called Robert F. Kennedy by Roy Lichtenstein and was comminssioned for Time Magazine.
Robert F. Kennedy 1968 by Roy Lichtenstein

…diagonal line patterns…,

Painting of a cartoon-like bedroom with a large bed in the center with a white cover and two decorative pillow, a dresser on the left wall with a painting of water lilies above it. On either side of the bed is a night stand with a small lamp, and above the bed are three paintings, the middle one of a pyramid. The wall behind the bed has blue diagonal lines. This is called Interior with Water Lilies by Roy Lichtenstein.
Interior with Water Lilies 1991 by Roy Lichtenstein (Fair Use)

…and even conversation balloons.

Painting of a large closeup section of a comic strip with a young woman with black hair in the water and crying. There is a conversation balloon that says, "I don't care! I'd rather sink than call Brad for help!" This is called Drowning Girl by Roy Lichtenstein.
Drowning Girl 1963 by Roy Lichtenstein (Fair Use)

Other artists, like Andy Warhol, experimented with cartoon-like paintings at the same time, and we started the Pop Art movement.

Black and white photo of a man with blond hair sticking up and wearing large black rimmed glasses and a black turtleneck shirt. This is Andy Warhol.
Andy Warhol

We were reacting to the abstract art, which does not look like anything or tell a story. Instead, we used familiar objects and popular culture as the basis for our work.

The name Pop Art comes from “popular”. Pop Art was not taken very seriously at first, but people began to enjoy that the painting and sculptures were fun, and art critics began to appreciate Pop Art as an important style.

Sculpture of an abstract head with a large blue wavy piece at the center. The left side of the "head" has a jagged outline with red dots all over it and a black eye and half of a red mouth. The right side of the "head" is mostly oval and white with a blue eye and half of a black mouth. Also on the left side below the face is a black half oval with yellow stripes while the right side is a jagged shape with red dots on it. This is called The Head by Roy Lichtenstein.
The Head 1992 by Roy Lichtenstein (Fair Use)

My first art exhibit was in 1962. As I continued to create art, I also made collages…,

Painting of an abstract white bull with blue spots and sections around the bull of blue diagonal lines, red diagonal lines and yellow. This is called Bull III 1973 by Roy Lichtenstein.
Bull III 1973 by Roy Lichtenstein (Fair Use)

…scenes of everyday objects…,

Painting of a red couch with red diagonal lines and red dots. On either side of the couch is a small yellow table with a white lamp with a red shade. In front of the couch is a long yellow table with a glass top. Behind the couch is a large window in three sections. This is called Red Lamps by Roy Lichtenstein. 
This is called Red Lamps by Roy Lichtenstein.
Red Lamps 1990 by Roy Lichtenstein (Fair Use)

…brush strokes…,

Painting of a few red brushstrokes with blue wall behind and the view of a few fingers and part of a paint brush in the corner. This is called Brushstrokes by Roy Lichtenstein.
Brushstrokes 1965 by Roy Lichtenstein (Fair Use)

…and huge murals, like one that is over six stories high, called Mural with Blue Brushstroke.

Picture of a large mural with a cartoon person holding a ball above his head and sunshine rays coming out behind his head. Next to this is a large blue brushstroke down the right side of the mural. Below this is a hand holding a sponge moving across white shapes, and below this are different shapes in different colors. This is called Mural with Blue Brushstroke by Roy Lichtenstein.
Mural with Blue Brushstroke 1986 by Roy Lichtenstein (Fair Use)

You may be interested in knowing my process for making a painting. I start with a sketch on paper, and I erase and make changes until it is exactly what I want, and I color in the picture with colored pencils. Next, I trace with India ink on tracing paper.

Black and white photo of a man with short dark hair in a sweater leaning over a table drawing. This is Roy Lichtenstein.
Roy Lichtenstein

Then I cut out painted pieces of paper, which are the colors I want for the final artwork, and I paste them onto my drawing. I cut them into unusual shapes and add Benday dots and diagonal lines. I then project the picture onto a wall to decide what the size of the painting will be, and I measure it.

Photo of part of the head and the hands of a man with grey hair holding up a ruler and painting a black line below a yellow line.
Roy Lichtenstein

Now I order the canvas and stretch it, undercoat it with white paint, and project the image onto the canvas. I draw my image and refine it with a ruler and compass, taping lines or shapes.

Black and white photo of a man with grey hair standing on a step stool in front of a large canvas with oval shapes like lily pads in black. He is bending toward a paper taped to the wall to look at it.
Roy Lichtenstein

Then I add the colors.

Photo of a man with grey hair pulled into a short ponytail and wearing a blue long-sleeved shirt. He is leaning toward the viewer and painting a lower portion of the canvas. This is Roy Lichtenstein.
Roy Lichtenstein

As I finish up, I sometimes consider what the art critics will think. “There are always little areas of doubt in your mind. But I think you should approach art as something you really love to do. That’s the impulse. Otherwise, you’ll never succeed in any way.”

Now you can see my art in many places, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Here’s what you should remember about me. 

  • I am Roy Lichtenstein.
  • I lived from 1923 to 1997.
  • I am a known for my Pop Art inspired by comic books and bubble gum wrappers.
  • My trademark is Ben-Day dots.

Investigate the life and art works of Roy Lichtenstein in this artist unit study!

Watch the video about me too!


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