My latest project is taking me on an exciting mission to investigate the world of Roy Lichtenstein. I’m not compelled to do it in depth, but for this commission I need to get a feel for his style and the word that he’s done. It was whilst doing this research I discovered a startling revelation, something which may have already been apparent to some of you but for me it’s news.
Roy Lichtenstein was a no good plagiarist! This is just terrible news. Not that I particularly hold any affection for the guy, although I am a huge fan of graphic novels and comic book art I’d always like the fact he’d championed their style…but wait, no he didn’t. That’s why it’s terrible news. In actual fact, what Lichtenstein did do was wholesale take art from comic books, copy them out again in with much less skill and then go on to make a mint off it whilst the original artist faded into obscurity. The high toned and fancy critics in the art world back then and to this day, continue to look down their noses at comic book art. When compelled to review comic books they usually take a long suffering stance that begrudgingly admits that this particular comic book “isn’t for kids” and is therefore almost worthy of their notice.
But I digress. Lichtenstein was popular. Critics were gushing and fawning at him over their chilled champagne and at the same time they were all still belittling comic book art. He could have said something, spoken up for them. Maybe he was too scared someone would look into it and out him as being the massive plagiarist that he was.
As far as I’m aware, nobody outed him for being a bounder and a cad until relatively recently. A bloke called David Barsalou spent something like 25 years going through old comic books one panel at a time, comparing them with Lichtenstein’s work until he managed to find all the pieces he’d ripped off. It’s a real life’s work, this guy obviously feels very strongly on the struggling comic book artists getting their credit where credit is due. Good for him. These artists could have been you or me, trying to earn a living doing what they loved, putting their heart and soul in getting the right pose, the right look and for what, for their names to be forgotten whilst Lichtenstein’s name is actually programmed into Spellcheck.
But what do you think? Has his work improved upon the originals by cleaning them up a bit? Is he in some way inspired or he just a low down rat? What’s your opinion?
Picture on left – original piece by artist Tony Abruzzo. Picture on right, one by Lichtenstein.