James Rosenquist (November 29, 1933 – March 31, 2017) was an American artist and one of the protagonists in the pop art movement. Drawing from his background working in sign painting, Rosenquist’s pieces often explored the role of advertising and consumer culture in art and society, utilizing techniques he learned making commercial art to depict popular cultural icons and mundane everyday objects. While his works have often been compared to those from other key figures of the pop art movement, such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Rosenquist’s pieces were unique in the way that they often employed elements of surrealism using fragments of advertisements and cultural imagery to emphasize the overwhelming nature of ads.
He was a 2001 inductee into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. Rosenquist was born on November 29, 1933 in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the only child of Louis and Ruth Rosenquist. His parents were amateur pilots of Swedish descent who moved from town to town to look for work, finally settling in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His mother, who was also a painter, encouraged her son to have an artistic interest. In junior high school, Rosenquist won a short-term scholarship to study at the Minneapolis School of Art and subsequently studied painting at the University of Minnesota from 1952 to 1954. In 1955, at the age of 21, he moved to New York City on scholarship to study at the Art Students League, studying under painters such as Edwin Dickinson and George Grosz. Talking about his experience at the Art Students League, Rosenquist said "I studied only with the abstract artists. They had commercial artists there teaching commercial work, I didn’t bother with that. I was only interested in -- see, here’s how it started. I was interested in learning how to paint the Sistine Chapel. It sounds ambitious, but I wanted to go to mural school". While studying in New York, Rosenquist took up a job as a chauffeur, before deciding to join the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades. As a member of the union, Rosenquist would paint billboards around Times Square, ultimately becoming the lead painter for Artkraft‐Strauss and painting displays and windows across Fifth Avenue. By 1960, Rosenquist abandoned painting signs after a friend passed away by falling from scaffolding on the job. Instead of working on commercial pieces, he chose to focus on personal projects in his own studio, developing his own distinct style of painting that retained the kind of imagery, bold hues, and scale that he utilized while he painted billboards.
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