James Rosenquist was an American Pop artist known for his monumental paintings and prints. Often appropriating commercial imagery, his montage-like works combined popular culture, Surrealism, and historical painting methods. “Much of the aesthetic of my work comes from doing commercial art,” the artist once said. “I painted pieces of bread, Arrow shirts, movie stars. It was very interesting. Before I came to New York I wanted to paint the Sistine Chapel. I thought this is where the school of mural painting exists.” In his politically charged multi-panel painting F-111 (1964–1965), the artist offered a visual critique of the Vietnam War, with a medley of mushroom clouds, advertising, and populist imagery.
Born on November 29, 1933 in Grand Forks, ND, Rosenquist went on to attend the University of Minnesota, before studying at the Art Students League in New York under George Grosz, Morris Kantor, and Edwin Dickinson. The artist's early career as a commercial sign painter ended in 1960, after witnessing two coworkers fall to their deaths from a scaffold. Focused on his career, Rosenquist moved to a studio in Lower Manhattan, where he met other artists such as Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jack Youngerman. Transitioning away from cultural references into more abstract subject matter, he lived and worked between Aripeka, FL and New York, NY. Rosenquist died on March 31, 2017 in New York, NY. His works are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Tate Gallery in London among many others.