Nigel Parkinson, Cartoonist

Nigel Parkinson, Cartoonist
This is him, at a recent Comic Con

Friday, 26 April 2013

Lichtenstein? No Thanks.

The latest issue of VIZ takes to task the memory of Roy Lichtenstein, the Pop "Artist" of the 1960s who became very wealthy and was much lauded through his incredible skill and talent in copying from others. The artworld prides itself on 'found objects', and in his case, he 'found' his 'inspiration' in the pages of ephemeral comic books and elevated the images into 'Art'. Except his talent for composition, line, lighting, perspective and colour was as suspect as his moral bankruptcy for appropriation with no mention of the real artistry involved- the draughtsmanship of the likes of Tony Abruzzo, John Severin, Bob Powell Mike Sekowsky, you name 'em.

The real 'genius' of Lichtenstein was in looking at his comic book collection so closely that he spotted this ad on the inside back cover and sent off for one.  It meant he could blow up any image to huge 'wall size' and trace around it. Which he did again and again, never as deftly or confidently or boldly as the original illustrator, but attempting to.

Art critics raved about his 'imagination', his 'foresight' his 'ability to take trash and make it Art' and his 'brilliant captions which both tell a story and hide the truth of his art'. Except he just copied those as well.

End of rant. Thankfully, anyone reading this or this will see that VIZ feels the same way about this charlatan that I do, that Dave Gibbons does, and that you might, too.

[ I 'borrowed' these images from 'Deconstructing Roy Lichtenstein' (see it here) which did all the work for me here.
Oh the irony.
However, the invective is all mine].


Bridie said...

I love the fact that the advert says "No lessons! No talent!"

Says it all really.

Lew Stringer said...

I've been told that the Tate now has the original pages (credited to the artists) beside Lichtenstein's paintings. (Pity he never did that.) Hopefully astute visitors will easily see that the original panels were leagues ahead of the swipes in terms of technique and ability. But some probably won't.

nika said...

it it usually the case though aint it?!Always some 'loaded with selfconfidence'person hijacks the works of some one really talented!
it is all the Public Relations!you are loaded with 'overconfident jackarses'you can sell anthg,you are not ...oh well...try till you die.

D.TAYLOR said...

Thanks for reminding me how much I HATE Liftenstein's "work"!! But how is it possible he used the projector to trace the original, well drawn panels but got SO much wrong?! Was he really that bad an artist that he couldn't even trace accurately?!! Grrrr!

Anonymous said...

Well it has been an eye opener..I have seen his work in London...I didn't know the background to it..
pop art was all new and exciting..and did make you see the world in a different way..
Peter Gray

Harry Rickard said...

I really hated it when we had to do Roy Lichtenstein's artwork in Graphics. It annoyed me even more when my Graphics teacher said Lichtenstein was both original and talented.

Anonymous said...

I say Kudos to Lichtenstein. He is an internationally recognised GENUINE ARTIST, in capital letters. He obviously did not trace the comic source material, just compare his draughtsmanship and composition, because there is a difference between the fine artist and the commercial artist. But, I agree his work became more commercial, generic and mechanical when he found a market that would pay highly for "his" work and he would charge by the size of the painting, not the content.
Yes, he had assistants, well so did Jack Kirby and Michaelangelo!
People are just plain jealous that he found a way of being financially rewarded along with adulation by the media, intellectuals and critics while the original comic artists could only earn the page rate and the plaudits from schoolboys who never grew up.

NP said...

Aw, why stay anonymous? Be proud, own your own words.

Anonymous said...

Roy Lichtenstein did not directly trace the comic book panel.
His first step in the process was to make a small sketch of his interpretation of the design and composition.
Then he used the blow-up machine to project his sketch onto the canvas.

NP said...

Yeah, a nice point but largely irrelevant; the amount of 'composition' by Lichtenstein was about 1%.

Anonymous said...

Good artists copy, great artists steal!
I just had to use that old cliché.
i am sure that the 2 or 3 people that visit your blog are comic book/paper fans, so it's to be expected that they are offended by Lichtenstein's methodology.
But, I can be objective, detach myself from sentimentality and look at Lichtenstein as a social commentator or an artistic journalist. Come on, he even used Mickey Mouse! Did Disney cry? Did Disney sue? Yes, he is no Carl Barks (Who I admire greatly). Okay, he based his most famous painting on Irv Novick's comic book panel. But, Novick never had the idea (or audacity) to use his art on a bigger scale as a fine art painting. It was Lichtenstein who had the big idea and the luck. Anyway, Novick was payed for his art, DC owned it. I don't recall DC suing.
Lichtenstein did not simply swipe. He changed the composition. He changed the relative sizes of the plane and target. He emphasised the "whaam!" lettering and he split Novick's 1 panel into 2 panels. I could go on, dissecting this piece of work, but ultimately it will all be subjective. Sure, Jack Kirby was experimenting at this time with pop art, collages... but he too never thought of the field of fine art. These guys stuck to what they knew; comics (although Kirby did move into animation in the 1970s for financial reasons).
I really don't think Lichtenstein cynically decided that using comic book imagery would put him on the road to success. He did not calculate that this approach to art would make him rich and famous. It was just another experiment, but it caught the notice of influential people. It was something that could only happen in the 1960's culture.
Many artist's use something that already exists as the basis of their artwork. Be it a sunset, a landscape, an animal, a person, a piece of machinery or an event. What's wrong with using another piece of artwork? Do we have to be purists?
Anyway, I like comics, I have done since I was a kid. I like to see the comic book style painting in an art gallery. I would have preferred to see an original large scale Kirby, Ditko or Kurtzman painting! But they did not do that! So I am happy to see a Lichtenstein.

Lew Stringer said...

If Lichtenstein was such a great artist why didn't he just use his comic book technique to create NEW images in that style? The point he was making would still be there, (because most people who admire his stuff haven't seen the comics he leeched from) and he'd have gained some respect for using his imagination instead of doing atrociously poor copies.

NP said...

I think 'Anonymous' above has rather pithily if mean-spiritedly set out everything I despise about Litchenstein in his presumably-intended-to-be-barbed reply, strawman arguments and all. So I'll let it speak for itself.

Kid said...

Well, I've looked at both and I have to say that, in my famously humble opinion, the originals are better than the copies. That's a fair(ish) point Anon makes about all art being derivative 'though.

Now, I have to confess that I don't know much about Lichtenstein (and can't be bothered Googling him)- was he particularly famous before he did these comicbook panels? If so, it seems that the panels benefitted from his reflected glory and thereby became famous, rather than the other way around. (If not, I'm talking pants.)

The thing that seems to make the difference is the audience and the venue. Print a picture in a comic and it tends to go unnoticed, by and large. Put a frame around it and hang it in a gallery and people often praise it to the rafters. Bear in mind, 'though, that the audience is the same one that regards a pile of bricks or half a sheep in a glass case as the epitome of artistic accomplishment.

Kid said...

PS. I'm no mathematician, but it sure looks like more than two or three visitors on this post to me.