Roy Lichtenstein, one of the most important artists of the Twentieth Century and a principal figure of the Pop Art movement, created Modern Painting with Ionic Column (1967) as his career was firing on all cylinders. The same year of this painting, when the New York-born artist was in his early 40s, Lichtenstein’s first museum retrospective debuted at the Pasadena Museum of Art. Modern Painting with Ionic Column, standing more than five-feet tall and stretching nearly seven-feet wide, features signifiers such as abstraction, primary colors, and Ben-Day Dots that captured the art world’s attention and catapulted him into the limelight.
The Ben-Day Dots, of equal size and distribution, evoke the graphic style of comic books and emphasize the idea of mechanical reproduction in visual art. Here, Lichtenstein presents an ionic column, one of the three styles of columns used in ancient Greece, a potential nod to his conviction that all art projected a code or language. “My use of evenly repeated dots and diagonal lines and uninflected color areas suggest that my work is right where it is, right on the canvas, definitely not a window into the world,” he said.