Roy Lichtenstein (1923–1997) was one of pop art's most inspired creators. His landmark departure from abstract expressionism came in 1961 when he painted Look Mickey. A succession of works based on comic strips and newspaper ads followed, and within little time Lichtenstein had developed his signature style. Slyly—and with wit—he began to introduce references to earlier artists and genres, and by 1970 his motifs had become wide-ranging. The Lichtenstein drawings, which span two decades and range in date from 1973 to 1992, progress from still life to abstraction, architecture to surrealism, German expressionism to landscape, and women to interiors.
Lichtenstein's style was fundamentally graphic, and his reliance on drawing was critical. It was also the means by which he conceived and carried out his paintings. Using an opaque projector, he would cast an enlarged image of a drawing onto canvas, and that projected image would serve as the painting's launching point. Unlike the cool, mechanical aspect of the paintings, there is an unaffected warmth to the drawings. Lichtenstein stated that "the drawings show the real work…[and] are the basis of my art." Indeed, he said, "everything is in the drawings."
This installation celebrates a recent gift from the artist's wife, Dorothy Lichtenstein, his sons, David and Mitchell Lichtenstein, and the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation. A total of thirteen drawings were given in memory of the late Jane Meyerhoff, who with her husband Robert promised their entire collection of late twentieth-century art to the National Gallery of Art. An extraordinary aspect of this gift of drawings—aside from each work's excellence—is the fact that each one relates directly to a painting by Lichtenstein in the Meyerhoff Collection.