Art @ Home: Reimagine and Transform

Roy Lichtenstein is well known for using comic book images in his pop art paintings. But, he began experimenting with appropriating images from the world of art and popular culture much earlier in his career.

In the Roy Lichtenstein: History in the Making, 19481960 exhibition, there are two works that are great examples of how he began to take well-known paintings and make them his own. The two works are well known history paintings, commonly found in art and history textbooks.

Death of the General, inspired by The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West

Roy Lichtenstein, Death of the General, c. 1951, oil on canvas, 33 ¾ x 40 ¾ in. (85.7 x103.5 cm). Courtesy of Gabriel Miller. © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.

Washington Crossing the Delaware II, inspired by Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze

Roy Lichtenstein, Washington Crossing the Delaware II, c. 1951, oil on canvas, 24 ⅛ x 30 ⅛ (61.3 x 76.3 cm). Courtesy of Gabriel Miller. © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.

Take a look at these painting pairs.

What parts of the original paintings did Lichtenstein reimagine and transform?

What did he leave out?

What else do you notice?

At this point in his artistic career, Lichtenstein was interested in satirizing traditional American images and stories. As you can see in these two paintings, one of his techniques was to intentionally place childlike figures in these well-known historical scenes. Now that you’ve had a chance to look at these works and consider Lichtenstein’s artistic process, it’s time to think about how you might use this idea of reimagining and transforming to create your own work of art.

Option 1:

Begin with a work of art that seems famous or iconic to you. Look for images online, to spark your imagination.

Take a look at the work of art you are choosing, and think about how you could reimagine and transform it. Use these guiding questions, to help you make your artistic choices:

  • What elements do you want to keep in your work of art?
  • What elements do you want to leave out?
  • How will you reimagine this work of art? Changing the colors? Changing the background? Changing the figures, as Lichtenstein did—turning them into cartoon-like characters?

You can use whatever tools and materials you have at home to create your work of art—crayons, markers, colored tape, paper, paint, oil pastels, or string. You also can use paper or cardboard, cutting them into shapes and gluing them to a surface to create a collage.

Here’ a work of art, inspired by the Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #559, on view on the Colby Museum’s east facade.

Option 2:

The idea of reimagining and transforming was at the heart of a viral social media movement that blossomed at the beginning of the pandemic. Take a look at the #GettyMuseumChallenge, which was created by the J. Paul Getty Museum, who in turn had been inspired by a Dutch Instagram feature, Tussen Kunst & Quarantaine. 

People were recreating famous works of art by using themselves as models, or pulling together things they could find at home. The Colby Museum staff even got inspired. Here’s one staff member’s take on Ai Weiwei’s Colored Vases from our Lunder Collection:

What will you come up with? 

Take a photograph and share your art with us @ColbyMuseum on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #ArtAtHome. To celebrate the opening weekend, everyone who shares their art through Sunday, Feb. 14 will be entered in a drawing to win a catalogue of Roy Lichtenstein: History in the Making, 19481960 and a Pastel Experiments: Create-It Kit.