Continuing on with our posts regarding the most commonly asked questions by visitors to Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective, we thought we would take a moment to address this frequent question…
Do Lichtenstein’s paintings look just like the source material?
The quick answer is “no.” Although Lichtenstein did adapt work from a variety of media, including children’s books, advertising, catalogues, and comic strips, he made adjustments in form and content so that the final piece always differs—sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically—from the source material.
For example, as you can see upon close observation of the above image from the book Donald Duck Lost and Found, the final work differs conspicuously from the source. First, look at the perspective. In the original drawing, the viewer looks at Mickey and Donald from a point past the end of the dock. In Lichtenstein’s painting, it almost seems like the viewer is looking on from the shore.
Lichtenstein has also taken out much of the detail and color. His palette includes white and the primary colors, while the original painting is much more nuanced. Lichtenstein also stripped down many of the details of the painting—the wood has lost its grain, the people and trees have been removed from the background, and water is no longer depicted using subtle shifts in color, but by a highly stylized depiction of what we accept water to look like.
Similarly, Lichtenstein’s Masterpiece is adapted from a comic strip, but both the image and text have been altered. In the original version, the couple is in a similar position, but instead of being in an art studio excitedly examining a canvas, they’re driving in a car having an uncomfortable conversation. And as opposed to the enthusiastic “Why, Brad Darling, this painting is a masterpiece! My, soon you’ll have all of New York clamoring for your work!” the source material begins with “But someday the bitterness will pass…” This painting is a nod to Lichtenstein’s sense of humor about his newfound fame in the art world.
For even more information about Lichtenstein's source material, check out Yale ARTbooks. As the publisher of the Lichtenstein catalogue, they're similarly curious about the story behind Lichtenstein's body of work.
Please send any Lichtenstein-related questions to email@example.com and we’ll do our best to answer!
Image from Donald Duck Lost and Found. Published by Golden Press, 1960.
19 hours 48 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago CLOSING SOON—Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem
Two major figures in American art and literature aim to make the black experience visible in postwar America.
Closing August 28—http://bit.ly/2aQrnYd
1 day 17 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago It is believed Van Dyck never intended for the early stages of his etchings to be circulated and was surprised by their immediate popularity in the art market. Finding success at a time when artists didn’t usually show works in progress, these “unfinished” prints helped set the stage for the more recent popularity of works that reveal the creative process. See the prints that altered conventions in Van Dyck, Rembrandt, and the Portrait Print—closing August 7.
1 day 19 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago #TBT 1983: The museum held an exhibition for the collection of Jalane and Richard Davidson, Chicago collectors of contemporary American realist drawings. Acknowledged at the time for collecting against prevailing art world trends, they amassed a comprehensive collection of work spanning the careers of both well-known artists—like Jack Beal, pictured here with Jalane herself and a portrait he made of her—and lesser-known Midwestern artists. The entire Davidson collection was bequeathed to the museum and saw another exhibition devoted to it in 1999.