Techniques and strategies of commercial printing are fundamental to the visual language of Roy Lichtenstein’s celebrated Pop style. The Benday dots and regularized stripes he used for tone, the clarifying black outlines, the flat areas of bold primary color, and the simplification and schematization of his compositions are all elements embraced by consumer culture to create the inescapable printed imagery aimed at mass audiences.
The subject matter that first brought Lichtenstein’s work to public attention was appropriated from comic strips, but his later themes owed their visual syntax to themes from “high” culture, particularly the history of modern art…like Germany Expressionism and Art Deco, as well as the time-honored motif of landscape in art. In every case, his sense of irony is coupled with a strikingly positive spirit.
Printmaking was integral to Lichtenstein’s practice from the time he was a student, and in the early 1950s he regularly entered regional print exhibitions. But it was his Pop style that attracted the professional workshops established in the 1960s, and his work was instrumental in the renaissance of American printmaking at that time. His mechanized aesthetic was particularly in keeping with the technical expertise offered at Gemini G.E.L., and his early collaborations there were undertaken with Kenneth Tyler, a printer he continued to work with at Tyler Graphics. Donald Saff, then of Graphicstudio, was another technical wizard who urged Lichtenstein to make prints. In all he created some three hundred fifty printed images, primarily with a series format that echoed his work in painting. In addition to traditional prints, he created ephemeral projects in the spirit of Pop art, like wallpaper, gift wrap, and paper plates, and also made many benefit prints and posters for social and political causes.