Twitter schools San Francisco MOMA on Roy Lichtenstein

Happy birthday to the artist/swiper who copied comics panels by Russ Heath, Jack Kirby and many others.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, or SF MOMA, took to Twitter earlier this week to wish a happy birthday to Roy Lichtenstein, the pop artist who came to fame in the 1960s and passed away in 1997.

Lichtenstein is notorious in comics circles, and not in a good way. Many of his paintings were copies of comic book panels by artists like Jack Kirby, Russ Heath and Irv Novick, and rarely did he credit the original artists, nor were they compensated. As such, many comic artists and fans have called him a copycat at best and a plagiarist at worst. (Well, maybe not “at worst;” I’m sure much has probably been said about him that’s worse than that).

SF MOMA, however, seems to have a different opinion. In their description on social media, they said: “Lichtenstein transferred the clichéd comic-book compositions to the canvas with a projector and simplified them; the resulting paintings mimic the appearance of four-color printing, despite being meticulously handmade.”

“Clichéd comic-book compositions.” Yep, they really tweeted that out.

Writer Fabian Nicieza was one of the first to respond:

As did comics journalist/critic Greg Silber:

And many responders referenced a comic strip created by Russ Heath before he passed away in 2018, about his experiences with MOMA, Lichtenstein and the Hero Initiative:

Here’s a few more:

And I’ll end with my personal favorite:

As of now, SF MOMA has not responded to any of the criticism on Twitter.

One thought on “Twitter schools San Francisco MOMA on Roy Lichtenstein”

  1. I don’t hate Lichtenstein as much as some people do, but that’s because I always interpreted the point of his art as being that the distinction between high art and low art is bullshit; if all it takes to transform something from low art to high art is to swipe it and put it in a frame, then there’s something fundamentally absurd that valuation.

    Course, anybody who seriously suggests that swiping a comic book panel and putting it in a frame somehow makes it *better* is arguing the exact opposite of that point. And I would really expect a MOMA, of all things, to do better than that.

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