© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
At the same time as he was borrowing images from comic strips and commercials, Roy Lichtenstein was also borrowing from his heroes. The process of borrowing, updating, and (hopefully) outdoing has always been a strong tradition in art. Pablo Picasso borrowed from everyone, including the theme from Eugène Delacroix’s 1834 painting Women of Algiers in Their Apartment, which Lichtenstein appropriates along with a grid of primary colors à la Piet Mondrian. The women in Delacroix’s painting represent a male fantasy: a harem of women lounging around, waiting. Picasso, in his series from the mid-1950s, further scandalizes the theme. Here, however, Lichtenstein turns the salaciousness in on itself. The woman is a series of fragmented parts, jagged and angular; she is one with the architecture of her space, her birdlike face repels the gaze rather than returns it.