Roy Lichtenstein

Description: Roy Lichtenstein (American, 1923-1997). “Shipboard Girl [original print]”. A trial proof aside from the edition of unknown size, estimated c300. Overall size: 27 1/4 x 20 1/4 in. (692 x 514 mm). Created in 1965, this original color offset lithograph was published by Leo Castelli, NY, and printed by Graphic Industries, Inc., NY. This work is hand-signed by Lichtenstein in pencil in the lower right and is from an unnumbered edition.

Roy Lichtenstein takes a modernist perspective of the picture plane by utilizing a method of commercial design through comic strips and advertisement. Lichtenstein integrates the readymade quality of screen prints and integrates a painterly gesture with the use of thick lines, flat surface planes, and obscured perspective.

Ship Board Girl  is one of Lichtenstein’s earliest pop art prints, when he adopted this style. He was working in the ’40s and ’50s in a more abstract style, a style that was more common in America at that time, and it wasn’t until the early ’60s when he’d come back to New York that he developed into this comic book style using this dot pattern, which is known as a Benday dot, to create his scenes. This print was described as being among those that “don’t lower art to the level of the comic strip but raise the comic strip to the level of high art”

Executed in yellow, red, blue and black, this work is composed of wonderful color dots that combine to create the image. Similarly to the way newspaper images are printed, Lichtenstein used sold outlines to frame the picture elements, and then filled them with these vibrant color dots. Recalling Seurat’s pointillism technique, Lichtenstein relies on the instinct of our eye to fuse the separate dots into one overall color wash; however, Lichtenstein was a pop artist, and in his interest to play-with and titillate our eye, he makes the dots slightly too large, and slightly too far apart for us to fuse the dots together, thereby calling our attention to his technique. Further, Lichtenstein gives us fabulous subject matter in this “incomplete narrative.” The incomplete narrative remained a popular style throughout Lichtenstein’s career. In this sense, we are witness to an intriguing scene with a beautiful blonde (complete with bright red lips!) who is shown on the ship of a luxury liner (noted by the water and life-preserver). She has a curious expression, and because we are not given any other details into this mystery, we have an “incomplete narrative.” From the visual construction to the artistic process, Lichtenstein provides us with a wealth of viewing enjoyment that engages our mind and our senses.

1) Corlett, Mary Lee. The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein, A Catalogue Raisonné 1948 – 1997, 2002, listed as cat. no. 11.6 on pg 286.
2) Waldman, Diane, intro. Roy Lichtenstein Drawings and Prints, 1988, listed as cat. no. 12.

Roy Lichtenstein’s early appropriation of the aesthetics of American popular culture made him integral to the development of Pop art. Roy Lichtenstein was a student of the work of Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, and Paul Klee, Roy Lichtenstein incorporated elements of contemporary art theory and popular print media into his painting. In 1961 Roy Lichtenstein began to replicate the Benday dot system used in mass-circulation printed sources such as comics, newspapers, and billboards; this would become a signature element of Roy Lichtensteins painting and sculpture. By mimicking this industrial method and appropriating images from high and low culture, Roy Lichtenstein’s work realized a broader accessibility that had not yet been achieved in contemporary art. Roy Lichtenstein’s most recognizable series evolved from imagery drawn from popular culture: advertising images, war-time comics, and pin-up portraits, as well as traditional painting genres.