The first topics that brought Lichtenstein’s work to public attention was appropriated from comic strips, but his later themes owed their visual syntax to themes from “high” culture, particularly the history of modern art. Pictured here is an example of his interpretations of Oskar Schlemmer's Bauhaus Staircase, In any case, his sense of irony is coupled with a strikingly positive spirit.
Roy Lichtenstein became a leading figure in the new art movement during the 1960s - along with Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and James Rosenquist and among others. His work defined the premise of pop art through parody. Inspired by the comic strip, Lichtenstein produced precise compositions that documented while they parodied, often in a tongue-in-cheek manner. His work was influenced by popular advertising and the comic book style. His artwork was considered to be "disruptive". He described pop art as "not 'American' painting but actually industrial painting". His paintings were exhibited at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York City.
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Lichtenstein extended his source material to art history, including the work of Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso, and experimented with three-dimensional works. During a trip to Los Angeles in 1978, Lichtenstein became fascinated by lawyer Robert Gore Rifkind’s collection of German Expressionist prints and illustrated books, and in 1980 began exploring the Expressionist stylistic vocabulary in paintings such as The White Tree, which evokes the lyricism of Der Blaue Reiter landscapes, and Expressionist Head that mimics Erich Heckel’s 1919 woodcut, Portrait of a Man. Lichtenstein also created a number of small pencil drawings that he used as templates for woodcuts, a medium favoured by Emile Nolde and Max Pechstein among other Expressionist artists. The culmination of this exploration was the Expressionist Woodcut Series, 1980. This set of seven woodcuts includes motifs that echo the Expressionist masterpieces, such as Dr. Waldmann, which recalls Otto Dix’s Dr. Mayer-Hermann, 1926, and Reclining Nude: an addition to Lichtenstein’s repertoire of iconography that had hitherto excluded nude figures. Lichtenstein’s use of appropriated imagery has influenced artists such as Richard Prince, Jeff Koons and Raymond Pettibon.