Lichtenstein show in UK goes beyond cartoon classics

Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:00pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - 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 American 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.   Continued...

A worker poses with pop artist Roy Lichtenstein's Whaam!, 1963, during a media viewing of the Lichtenstein: A Retrospective exhibition, at Tate Modern in London February 18, 2013. The exhibition which opens on February 21 runs until May 27. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor