Roy Lichtenstein, American, 1923-1997
Composition: 35 5/8 x 25 5/8 in. (90.5 x 65.1 cm)
Sheet: 37 5/8 x 27 5/8 in. (95.6 x 70.2 cm)
Mat: 40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm)
Credit Line: Joint purchase of the Memphis Park Commission and Brooks Fine Arts Foundation
Object Number: 65.116
Copyright: © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
Not on view
Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein was known for his paintings, prints, and installations that recontextualized imagery from mass culture. Reacting against Abstract Expressionism, Pop artists favored an objective approach to painting that was emotionally detached and removed evidence of the artist’s hand from the work of art. Extracting images from popular culture and reconfiguring them into his work, Lichtenstein narrowed the distinction between fine and popular art. He adopted comic book imagery replicating the process and look of manufactured printed pulp through benday dots, vivid primary hues, text, speech balloons, and thick black lines.
By cropping and removing parts of the original comic strip composition, Lichtenstein was able to establish formal relationships based on balance and color. His controlled art-making process is often juxtaposed with an expressive or emotional moment; for example, aggression is overtly displayed in Sweet Dreams, Baby. Although the scene is comprised of two partial figures, the image captures a dynamic and violent moment. One man’s punch, dramatically emphasized through arcing motion lines and the vibrant “POW!” in bright red capitals, knocks the other man’s head out of the frame. The narrative sequence is suspended—it is unclear what led to the altercation or what will occur next. Lichtenstein’s title offers an interesting double meaning, as “sweet dreams, baby” is traditionally an endearing phrase. In this particular context, however, it suggests a “farewell” to the man who was just hit.