Lichtenstein: A Retrospective

Tomorrow (Thursday) sees the opening of a retrospective exhibition of the works of famous pop-art artist Roy Lichtenstein at the Tate Modern. Running until 27th May, the exhibition brings together 125 paintings and sculptures to highlight his enduring legacy. Lichtenstein is renowned for his works based on comic strips and advertising imagery, coloured with his signature hand-painted dots.

An artist with an instantly recognisable style, it may come as a surprise to some of Lichtenstein’s fans to learn that the artist, in his time, created a couple of book covers. Most notably, he produced a specially designed cover, and a second illustration for the frontispiece, exclusively for Frederic Tuten’s TINTIN IN THE NEW WORLD, a witty, avant-garde novel taking the most innocent character of the twentieth-century and dragging him into the too real world of painful love and self-awareness. It is a divisive subject amongst Tintin fans, but was authorised by Herge, the creator of Tintin. It is the novel where Tintin finally grows up.

So just how did Roy Lichtenstein come to create this iconic cover for Tuten’s book? The two were great friends; in an interview with The Brooklyn Rail Tuten describes Lichtenstein as “an artist I revered and… my oldest and closest friend”. Theirs was a friendship that lasted for thirty years, a friendship of mutual esteem for each other as an artist in their own right. It was Lichtenstein who helped Tuten get his start as a novelist, producing the cover image for his first novel THE ADVENTURES OF MAO ON THE LONG MARCH after reading Tuten’s manuscript. Originally published in 1971, it wasn’t until 1993 that Lichtenstein collaborated with Tuten once more, creating the iconic artwork for TINTIN IN THE NEW WORLD.

Of Lichtenstein, Tuten said in an interview with Bookforum:

I have never enjoyed a friend’s company or learned as much as I did with Roy. Our friendship covered more than thirty years. It was a friendship of mutual esteem and good will and humor. Roy once said to me, when an artist goes to make a painting, he or she already has in mind what a work of art should look like. And that, he said was the problem. It is the same problem for writers when they start a novel or a story. Hence, we produce the same novels and stories. Roy was a seeker, an original, and his work inspired me to approach my writing with questions.

Off to the exhibition at the Tate Modern? Get a quick Lichtenstein fix now, and take a look at the stunning cover for TINTIN IN THE NEW WORLD, taken from a collage that Lichtenstein created exclusively for this book.



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