Friday, March 25, 2011

Obituary Follow-Up

Our most discerning readers noted a rather large mistake in yesterday's post about how famous famous people have to be to get an obituary on the front page of the New York Times. In the post, I included a list of 10 living luminaries and asked readers to guess which of them are likely to enjoy a front page obituary when they die. This list included Roy Lichtenstein, the great comic strip-inspired pop artist. The only problem is that Mr. Lichtenstein died in 1997. Talk about a major error. I mean it's not like he died last year; the poor man has not been with us for 14 years! Now that's a ridiculous oversight.

Ah, but what an intriguing opportunity it provides. It should be easy to check to see whether, in fact, Mr. Lichtenstein made it to the front page of the New York Times when he died on September 29, 1997 by consulting, most likely, the September 30, 1997 front page. Now, remember, Lichtenstein was one of the most creative and inventive artists of his generation. Many critics would call him more versatile than somebody like Andy Warhol or even Jasper Johns (actually still living!), though many of us are familiar only with his larger than life pictures seemingly taken directly from the pages of comic books. For me, though, his sculptures that are direct adaptations of this style are among the most brilliant pieces of art from this period. So what do you think? Likely to make it to the front page or not?

The answer is: YES, he made it. Michael Kimmelman, still the Times lead art critic, wrote the front page obituary leading with this: "Roy Lichtenstein, the quintessential master of pop painting and a major figure in American art since he began scavenging comics 'Winnie Winkle,' 'G.I. Combat," and 'Secret Hearts,' ("I don't care - I'd rather sink than call Brad for help") died yesterday at New York University Medical Center in Manhattan. He was 73 and lived in Manhattan."

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