James Rosenquist (November 29, 1933 – March 31, 2017) was an American painter and one of the protagonists of the pop art movement.
Rosenquist was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota and was an only child. His parents, Lewis and Ruth Rosenquist, of Swedish descent, who were amateur pilots and moved from town to town to find work, eventually settled in Minneapolis. His mother, who was also a painter, encouraged him to cultivate an interest in the fine arts. In high school, James won a small scholarship to study at the Minneapolis School of Art and Design. Then, from 1952 to 1954, he studied painting at the University of Minnesota. In 1955, at the age of 21, he went to New York on a scholarship to study at the Art Students League.
Rosenquist began working by painting signs and advertisements. He applied the techniques of signage to the large-scale paintings he began creating in 1960. Like other pop artists, he adapted the visual language of advertising and mass culture to fine art. “I painted the signs for every candy store in Brooklyn,” he wrote in his autobiography (Painting Below Zero: Notes on a Life in Art, 2009).
In 2003 the art critic Peter Schjeldahl commented on this application of techniques by Rosenquist as follows: “Was the introduction of the method into art a cheap trick? So was Warhol”s photo-silk-screening and Lichtenstein”s illustrations from comic strips. The purpose in all cases was to fuse the aesthetics of painting with the semiotics of media-drenched contemporary reality. The naked efficiency of anti-personal art defines classic pop art.”
Rosenquist held his first two solo exhibitions at the Green Gallery in Manhattan in 1962 and 1963. He subsequently exhibited his work “F-111”, a room-sized painting, at the Leo Castelli Gallery in 1965, which brought him international acclaim.
Rosenquist had stated about his involvement in the pop art movement: “… I was called a pop artist because I used recognisable themes. Critics like to group people together. I didn”t meet Andy Warhol until 1964. I didn”t know Andy or Roy Lichtenstein that well. We all showed up separately.”
Several of Rosenquist”s works are on display on the ground floor of the Key Tower in Cleveland, where “F-111” was located for many years.
After his emergence, the painter executed large-scale commissions, such as the trio “The Swimmer”, “In the Econo-mist” (1997-1998) for the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, and a work designed for the ceiling of the Palais de Chayot in Paris.
Beginning with his first retrospectives of his early period in 1972, organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Walraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne, Rosenquist”s works have been the subject of several museum and gallery exhibitions, both in the United States and abroad. The Guggenheim Museum in New York organized a general retrospective of his work in 2003, which subsequently toured the world.
James Rosenquist married twice and had two children. With his first wife, Mary Lou Adams, whom he married on June 5, 1960; his first marriage ended in divorce. In 1976, a year after his divorce, the artist moved to the settlement of Aripeca, Florida. His second wife was Mimi Thompson, with whom he married on 18 April 1987 and they had a daughter
On April 25, 2009, a fire in Hernando County burned down the painter”s house, studio and warehouse, among other things. All of his works stored there were destroyed.
Rosenquist died at his home in New York City at the age of 83 after a long illness, leaving behind his second wife Mimi Thompson, his children and a grandson, Oscar.