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lower left: rfl; upper right reverse: rfLichtenstein / '61

Provenance

Dorothy and Roy Lichtenstein; gift 1990 to NGA.

Exhibition History
1982
Roy Lichtenstein - Paintings, Parris Art Museum, Southampton, New York, 1982.
1990
High and Low: Modern Art and Pop Culture, Museum of Modern Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1990-1991, no. 71, repro. (shown only in New York).
1991
Art for the Nation: Gifts in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1991, 418-419, color repro.
1993
Roy Lichtenstein, travelling exh. organized by Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (7 venues in U.S. and Europe), 1993-1996, no. 19, repro.
1999
Off Limits: Rutgers University and the Avant-Garde, 1957-1963, The Newark Museum, 1999, pl. 17, repro.
2001
Les années Pop, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 2001, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
2003
Roy Lichtenstein--All About Art, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark; Hayward Gallery, London; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2003-2005, no. 3, repro.
2014
Pop Art Myths, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, 2014, no. 14, repro.
2014
Pop to Popism, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2014-2015, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
Bibliography
n.d.
Rost, Kerstin. "Roy Lichtenstein Interviewed by Kerstin Rost." Unpublished manuscript in NGA curatorial files.
1965
Rublowsky, John. Pop Art. New York, 1965: 43-49, repro. 50.
1966
"Oldenburg, Lichtenstein, Warhol: A Discussion." Artforum IV, no. 6 (February 1966): 21.
1972
Waldman, Diane. Roy Lichtenstein. Milan, 1972: 25-26.
1991
Esterow, Milton. "Roy Lichtenstein: 'How Could You Be Much Luckier Than I Am?'" Art News 90, no. 5 (May 1991): 85-91, repro.
1992
Mamiya, Christin J. Pop Art and Consumer Culture: American Super Market. Austin, 1992: 87-88, fig. 42.
1993
Waldman, Diane. Roy Lichtenstein. New York, 1993: 21, 25, fig. 19.
1994
Lewis, Jo Ann. "Roy Lichtenstein's Naturel Progression: New Directions for Pop's Old Master." The Washington Post (30 October 1994): G7, repro.
1997
Sylvester, David. Some Kind of Reality: Roy Lichtenstein Interviewed by David Sylvester in 1966 and 1997. London, 1997: 7.
2000
Jancène-Jaigu, France. "L'autocitation chez Roy Lichtenstein: de Artist's Studio, Look Mickey à la série des Reflections." In Bernard Brugière, Marie-Christine Lemardeley, and André Topia, eds. L'art dans l'art. Paris, 2000: 347-353.
2002
Lobel, Michael. Image Duplicator: Roy Lichtenstein and the Emergence of Pop Art. New Haven and London, 2002: 31-39, fig. 11.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 452-453, no. 382, color repro.
2006
Bader, Graham. "Donald's Numbness." Oxford Art Journal 29, no. 1 (2006): 93-113, cover and fig. 1.
2011
Bader, Graham. "Lichtenstein's Narcissus." In Contemporary Art and Classical Myth. Ed. Isabelle Loring Wallace and Jennie Hirsh. Farnham, Surrey, and Burlington, Vermont, 2011: 159-173, pl. 9.
2012
May, Stephen. "Roy Lichtenstein, A Retrospective at National Gallery of Art." Antiques and the Arts Weekly. (November 9, 2012): 1, 30, repro.
Explore This Work

Twenty years into his career artist Roy Lichtenstein realized that he could create an original work of art only “by doing something completely unoriginal.”

Interview with Lichtenstein, 1996

Look Mickey represents the first time Roy Lichtenstein directly transposed a scene and a style from a source of popular culture, the 1960 children’s book Donald Duck: Lost and Found. In the image, Disney icons Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse stand on a pier. Staring at the water, fishing pole raised above his head, Donald thinks he has caught a fish when he has actually snagged his own coattail. Behind him stands Mickey, stifling a giggle at his friend’s mistake. The text, “LOOK MICKEY, I’VE HOOKED A BIG ONE,” mockingly hangs over Donald’s unsuspecting head.

Is Lichtenstein attempting to affront fine art? Instead of painting an original image, he appropriates a scene from the Disney children’s book complete with bubble text—a visual joke. Yet he does subtly alter the original to turn it into a more unified image: omitting background figures, rotating the point of view by 90 degrees, organizing the colors into bands of yellow and blue, and simplifying the characters’ features. Stylistically, Lichtenstein imitates printed media—its heavy black outlines, primary colors, and, in Donald’s eyes and Mickey’s face, the ink dots of the Benday printing process then used to produce inexpensive comic books and magazines. In response to works such as Look Mickey, Lichtenstein was criticized for “counterfeiting” commercial images. He was even called “one of the worst artists in America” by a New York Times art critic. Lichtenstein, however, injected his art with a dark humor that inverted the visuals he transposed. By enlarging comic scenes and lifting them from their initial contexts, he presented a sly version of the clichéd image. 

In Look Mickey, Lichtenstein confronts us with a scene in which the punch line comes at the expense of a popular icon—the ever-irascible Donald Duck. We come away with a feeling of ambiguity—not the simple joke we anticipated—as we identify with the narrator, Mickey, and the victim, Donald. The paradox is essential to pop art.

About the Artist

Roy Lichtenstein was born in New York City. In high school he began to draw and paint, taking summer classes with artist Reginald Marsh at the Art Students League. In 1940 he entered college at the school of fine arts at Ohio State University, where he was influenced by teacher and artist Hoyt Sherman. Sherman used a flash lab—a series of quickly rotating images—to teach students automatic recall to draw, stressing the connection between seeing and drawing. In 1946, after three years serving in the army, Lichtenstein returned to Ohio State to finish his degree. For 13 years he was an art professor at Ohio State, the State University of New York in Oswego, and Rutgers University. In 1963 he left Rutgers to paint full time.

Lichtenstein had his first exhibition in New York in 1951, showing work he later recalled as “in the abstract expressionist idiom” then dominating the art world. The following six years he worked in Cleveland as a draftsman and graphic designer. In 1957 he was back in New York and soon began to experiment with comic-strip characters. In 1960, Allan Kaprow, an old friend and organizer of art “happenings,” introduced Lichtenstein to other artists with similar interests, including Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg. The next year Lichtenstein painted Look Mickey. It was a turning point. Lichtenstein finally rejected abstract expressionism and its emphasis on brushstroke, gesture, and the artist’s mark. He also turned from its elusive “subjects”—abstraction and expression—to clear-cut images of popular culture. Lichtenstein quickly emerged as one of the most important artists in the new pop style.

In the later 1960s and the 1970s Lichtenstein undertook an exploration of the history of Western art. His “quotations” from its signature forms (for example the classical column) and stylistic idioms (such as cubism) culminated in works that quote his own earlier paintings. Collectively they question assumptions about copy and original, reproduction and uniqueness, high and low art.

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