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Appropriation

Pop artists absorbed and borrowed from popular culture, challenging notions of originality and what it means to be an artist.


Drowning Girl

Roy Lichtenstein
(American, 1923–1997)

1963. Oil and synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 67 5/8 x 66 3/4" (171.6 x 169.5 cm)

Roy Lichtenstein appropriated comic book imagery in many of his early paintings. The source for this work is “Run for Love!,” the melodramatic lead story in DC Comics’ Secret Love #83, from 1962. In the original illustration (shown below), the drowning girl’s boyfriend appears in the background, clinging to a capsized boat. Lichtenstein cropped the image dramatically, showing the girl alone, encircled by a threatening wave. He shortened the caption from “I don’t care if I have a cramp!” to the ambiguous “I don’t care!” and changed the boyfriend’s name she calls out from Mal to Brad.

Working by hand, Lichtenstein painstakingly imitated the mechanized process of commercial printing. First he transferred a sketch onto a canvas with the help of a projector. He then drew in black outlines and filled them with primary colors or with circles, simulating the Ben-day dots used in the mechanical reproduction of images. Explaining the appeal of comic books, Lichtenstein said, “I was very excited about, and interested in, the highly emotional content yet detached, impersonal handling of love, hate, war, etc. in these cartoon images.”

A rendering of the basic elements of a composition, often made in a loosely detailed or quick manner. Sketches can be both finished works of art or studies for another composition.

A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).

The subject matter or significance of a work of art, especially as contrasted with its form.

One of three base colors (blue, red, or yellow) that can be combined to make a range of colors.

A work of art on paper that usually exists in multiple copies. It is created not by drawing directly on paper, but through a transfer process. The artist begins by creating a composition on another surface, such as metal or wood, and the transfer occurs when that surface is inked and a sheet of paper, placed in contact with it, is run through a printing press. Four common printmaking techniques are woodcut, etching, lithography, and screenprint.

In photography, editing, typically by removing the outer edges of the image. This process may happen in the darkroom or on a computer.

Colored dots (generally in four colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) used to create shading and secondary colors in the mechanical reproduction of images.

The area of an artwork that appears farthest away from the viewer; also, the area against which a figure or scene is placed.

As an artistic strategy, the intentional borrowing, copying, and alteration of preexisting images, objects, and ideas.

Comic Inspiration
To create Drowning Girl, Roy Lichtenstein appropriated imagery from this Tony Abruzzo panel from “Run For Love” in Secret Hearts, a DC Comic series produced in the 1960’s.

A Tony Abruzzo panel from "Run For Love" in Secret Hearts, no. 83 (November 1962)