Why we’re loving Lichtenstein: A Retrospective at Tate Modern

When you think of Pop Art, one of the first names that springs to mind is Roy Lichtenstein and his dotty, comic-strip inspired canvases. His extensive work hasn’t been seen all together for over 20 years, which is why Lichtenstein: A Retrospective at the Tate Modern from 21 February to 27 May 2013 is such an exciting and eagerly anticipated exhibition. It’s packed with 125 of the artist’s works, and really packs a punch. ACHICA Living went to take a closer look…

In the early 1960s, Lichtenstein developed a new way of painting that although done by hand looked very much like industrial printing. A first, to create a uniform dot effect he used a dog’s grooming brush that had plastic bristles and gave him the perfect circles he needed for the look. The dots are called Benday and even when you look at them up close they still look like they’ve been printed.

Some of his most recognisable paintings are on show including Look Mickey 1961, Whaam! 1963 and Drowning girl 1963 (below). Alongside the paintings are some of his sculptures. The Art Deco ones really are striking.

It’s worth using the Tate’s multimedia guide – a microphone with a tablet on which you can select the painting you want to know more about – to tour the exhibition. It gives you an insight into the artist and his thoughts  behind each piece.

There are sketches and progressive works on display, which are always fascinating to see next to the finished piece. Especially with Whaam!

One of the highlights is the early Pop Art paintings of everyday objects – all in black and white and fantastically large. The giant ‘Compositions’ notebook caught our eye. It’s worth seeing it in the flesh to get the full impact.

The futurism and surrealism paintings feature works inspired by great artists such as Picasso and Monet are also a joy, as is the  Disney-inspired paintings - it’s amazing how Lichtenstein used dots and dashes to create the look of a mirror for example (shown below).

In his Perfect/Imperfect series, Lichtenstein felt that for a painting to be perfect, it had to be drawn in one line from edge to edge of the canvas thus creating a workable area. Some have an extra triangular piece attached so that the line doesn’t have to stop. These works mentioned and more by Roy Lichtenstein make for a spectacular exhibition, which is well worth a visit. Just try not to get too mesmerised over the colourful canvases and lean too far over the ropes!

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Emma Morton Turner, Guest Editor

View all posts by Emma Morton Turner, Guest Editor