May 25, 2013
Lichtenstein show in UK goes beyond cartoon classics
For Roy Lichtenstein, it was better that the public was over-familiar with his work than not familiar at all, a point never lost on the US artist best known for his giant cartoon strip adaptations.
A major retrospective of the artist at London's Tate Modern puts famous images like "Whaam!" and "Drowning Girl" center stage, but also seeks to explain how Lichtenstein got there and where he went next.
Far less recognizable to most will be the Chinese-inspired landscapes, for example, his Mirror series or the black and white works of everyday objects like a tire, ball of twine and desk calendar.
Lichtenstein's widow Dorothy, in London to help promote the show of some 125 works, said he never got carried away by his success, partly because he came to it in his late 30s.
"He used to joke that someone was going to come and shake him and he'd be in a wheelchair in a nursing home ... and (them)saying 'time for your medicine again Mr. Lichtenstein'," she told a small group of reporters after the press preview.
"I do think he wore it lightly, because I think he basically viewed fame as something that could be fickle and was often fickle," she added.
Dorothy married the artist in 1968, and he died in 1997 aged 73. Since then his stature has grown, with important canvases fetching a small fortune at auction including "Sleeping Girl", which sold for $45 million at Sotheby's last year.
Perhaps surprisingly for someone who turned cartoon strips into high art, he never read comics as a child.
"But of course his children, the boys, had comic books - war heroes and all, and so he saw in those I think the great possibility for imagery," Dorothy explained.
"He really liked that heightened sense. They are archetypes really, you know the hero pilot and the beautiful girl falling in love or heartbroken."