James Rosenquist, one of pop art’s key figures, has died in New York City after a long illness. He was 83.
Alongside his contemporaries Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenburg, Rosenquist helped define the pop art movement in the early 1960s.
Born in Grand Forks, North Dakota in 1933, he studied art at the University of Minnesota. He then found work in industry and advertising before moving to New York in the mid-1950s.
Drawing on his early experience as a billboard painter, Rosenquist’s paintings combined imagery from print advertisements, photographs, and popular periodicals.
Some of his best-known work includes President Elect, which featured John F Kennedy’s face alongside a yellow Chevrolet and a piece of cake.
Another of his works from the early 1960s, the monumental F-111, consisted of 23 panels and acted as a protest against American militarism and the Vietnam war. It featured the fighter bomber plane – at the time the newest, most technologically advanced weapon in development – alongside images of consumerism.
Originally designed to cover the four walls of the Leo Castelli Gallery at 4 East 77th Street in Manhattan, the painting was subsequently exhibited at the Jewish Museum and then taken on a tour of Europe. In 2012 it was exhibited at MoMA in New York.
In 1978, Rosenquist was appointed by president Jimmy Carter to a six-year term on the National Council on the Arts, a group advising the National Endowment for the Arts.
In later years he spent much of his time in Aripeka, Florida, where he had a home and studio space. However, a fire destroyed the properties in 2009, with a number of Rosenquist’s works also being destroyed.
The same year he published an autobiography, written with David Dalton, where he discussed his unease at being labelled a ‘pop artist’.
Rosenquist said: “Pop Art. I’ve never cared for the term, but after half a century of being described as a Pop artist I’m resigned to it. Still, I don’t know what Pop Art means, to tell you the truth.”