James Rosenquist

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James Rosenquist
James rosenquist1.jpg
Photo by: Russ Blaise 1988
Born (1933-11-29)November 29, 1933
Grand Forks, North Dakota, U.S.
Died March 31, 2017(2017-03-31) (aged 83)
New York City, U.S.
Education Minneapolis College of Art and Design
University of Minnesota
Art Students League of New York
Known for Painting, printmaking, drawing
Movement Pop art
Spouse(s) Mary Lou Adams (m. 1960; div. 1975)
Mimi Thompson (m. 1987)

James Rosenquist (November 29, 1933 – March 31, 2017) was an American artist and one of the protagonists in the pop art movement. He was a 2001 inductee into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.[1]

Early life[edit]

Rosenquist was born on November 29, 1933 in Grand Forks, North Dakota,[2] 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.[3]


After leaving school, Rosenquist took a series of odd jobs and then turned to sign painting.[2] From 1957 to 1960, Rosenquist earned his living as a billboard painter. Rosenquist applied sign-painting techniques to the large-scale paintings he began creating in 1960. Like other pop artists, Rosenquist adapted the visual language of advertising and pop culture to the context of fine art.[4] "I painted billboards above every candy store in Brooklyn. "I got so I could paint a Schenley whiskey bottle in my sleep", he wrote in his 2009 autobiography, Painting Below Zero: Notes on a Life in Art.[5] "Time" magazine stated that "his powerful graphic style and painted montages helped define the 1960s Pop Art movement." ("Milestones James Rosenquist," "Time," April 17, 2017, p. 15)

In 2003, art critic Peter Schjeldahl asked of Rosenquist's application of sign painting techniques to fine art thus: "[W]as importing the method into art a bit of a cheap trick? So were Warhol’s photo silk-screening and Lichtenstein’s lining of panels from comic strips. The goal in all cases was to fuse painting aesthetics with the semiotics of media-drenched contemporary reality. The naked efficiency of anti-personal artmaking defines classic Pop. It’s as if someone were inviting you to inspect the fist with which he simultaneously punches you."[2]

Rosenquist had his first two solo exhibitions at the Green Gallery in 1962 and 1963.[2] He exhibited his painting F-111, a room-scale painting, at the Leo Castelli Gallery in 1965,[2] with which he achieved international acclaim.[6]

But Rosenquist said the following about his involvement in the Pop Art movement: "They [art critics] called me a Pop artist because I used recognizable imagery. The critics like to group people together. I didn't meet Andy Warhol until 1964. I did not really know Andy or Roy Lichtenstein that well. We all emerged separately."[7]

Rosenquist's paintings have been on display in the lobby of Key Tower in Cleveland, Ohio. His F-111 was displayed there for many years.[8]

After his acclaim, Rosenquist produced large-scale commissions. This includes the three-painting suite The Swimmer in the Econo-mist (1997–1998) for Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, Germany, and a painting that was planned for the ceiling of the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France.[9]


"To be creative is to be accepting, but it’s also to be harsh on one’s self. You just don’t paint colors for the silliness of it all."
– James Rosenquist[10]

Rosenquist received numerous honors, including selection as "Art In America Young Talent USA" in 1963, appointment to a six-year term on the Board of the National Council of the Arts in 1978,[2] and receiving the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement in 1988. In 2002, the Fundación Cristóbal Gabarrón conferred upon him its annual international award for art, in recognition of his contributions to universal culture.[11]

Beginning with his first early-career retrospectives in 1972 organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, and the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne, Rosenquist's work was the subject of several gallery and museum exhibitions, both in the United States and abroad. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum organized a full-career retrospective in 2003, which traveled internationally, and was organized by curators Walter Hopps and Sarah Bancroft.[12]

His F-111, shown at The Jewish Museum in 1965,[13] was mentioned in a chapter of Polaroids from the Dead by Douglas Coupland.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Rosenquist married twice and had two children.[2] With his first wife, Mary Lou Adams, whom he married on June 5, 1960,[14] he had one child: John.[2] His first marriage ended in divorce.[2] In 1976, a year after his divorce, he moved to Aripeka, Florida. His second wife was Mimi Thompson, whom he married on April 18, 1987, by whom he had one child:[15] Lily.[2]

On April 25, 2009, a fire swept through Hernando County, Florida, where Rosenquist had lived for 30 years, burning his house, studios, and warehouse. All of his paintings stored on his property were destroyed, including art for an upcoming show.[16][17][18]


Rosenquist died at his home in New York City on March 31, 2017, after a long illness; he was 83 years old.[2][5] His survivors include his wife, Thompson; one daughter, Lily; one son, John; and a grandson, Oscar.[2]


  1. ^ James Rosenquist Florida Artists Hall of Fame
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Johnson, Ken. "James Rosenquist, Pop Art Pioneer, Dies at 83". The New York Times. 1 April 2017. Retrieved 2 April 2017. 
  3. ^ Kastner, Jeffrey (November 22, 2007). "In the Studio: James Rosenquist". artinfo.com. Archived from the original on May 24, 2008. Retrieved April 21, 2008. 
  4. ^ www.acquavellagalleries.com http://www.acquavellagalleries.com/artists/james-rosenquist.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ a b Pengelly, Martin (2 April 2017). "James Rosenquist, pop artist who painted the famous F-111, dies aged 83". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 April 2017. 
  6. ^ The Permanent Collections of the Guggenheim Museums. Museo Guggenheim Bilbao. 2007. p. 162. 
  7. ^ "Art Space Talk: James Rosenquist", Myartspace, April 4, 2008. Retrieved May 16, 2008.
  8. ^ Litt, Steven. "Salle Mural Quietly Fills Key Tower Void", The Plain Dealer. March 22, 1998.
  9. ^ a b Wiersema, Robert J. (8 July 2016). "How Douglas Coupland's Polaroids from the Dead continues to be a touchstone 20 years later". National Post. Retrieved 2 April 2017. 
  10. ^ Staniszewski, Mary Anne. "James Rosenquist Interview" BOMB Magazine Fall, 1987. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
  11. ^ "James Rosenquist". ropac.net. 
  12. ^ Stevens, Mark, New York Magazine (October 20, 2003). King of Pop
  13. ^ "Remembering Pop Artist James Rosenquist". The Jewish Museum. 2017-04-03. Retrieved 2017-04-04. 
  14. ^ Current Biography. 31. H. W. Wilson Company. 1970. p. 40. 
  15. ^ O'Neill, William L., ed. (2003). The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives: M–Z (illustrated ed.). C. Scribner's Sons. p. 280. ISBN 9780684312224. 
  16. ^ Miamiherald.com
  17. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (April 28, 2009). "Pop Artist's Works Lost in Studio Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved October 15, 2010. 
  18. ^ Baynews9.com

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