Pop art pioneer Lichtenstein in Tate Modern retrospective

LONDON (Reuters) - The first major retrospective show of American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein's work is to go on show for the first time in 20 years at a gallery in London next year.

The Tate Modern is to host the most comprehensive collection of the artist's work aiming to demonstrate the importance of Lichtenstein's influence, his engagement with art history and his enduring legacy as an artist.

Famed for his use of Ben-Day dots, bold lines and anguished heroines portrayed in his earlier works, Lichtenstein, whose first exhibition in 1968 was panned by art critics, pioneered a new style of painting inspired by industrial print processes but executed by hand.

Curator Sheena Wagstaff, who spent four years working on the exhibition, said she looked at 5,000 pieces of Lichtenstein's work before whittling it down to the key 125 pieces that will go on show.

"He is a quintessential pop artist but there's a whole lot of other work that you don't know about that is just as important," Wagstaff told reporters.

The show will feature influential paintings such as "Drowning Girl" from the Museum of Modern Art in New York and "Look Mickey", on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington as well as the Tate's own "Wham!" piece.

"The highlights of the show, I think will be for many people, revisiting old friends like the romance and war series with these sort of great anguished heroines and this virile air force pilots," Wagstaff told Reuters.

There are 125 works from private and public collections from around the world, comprising paintings, sculptures and drawings.

There will be other highlights of the show that will surprise visitors, Wagstaff added, such as a series of large nudes or the sublime Chinese landscapes Lichtenstein painted in the final years of his life.

The exhibition which is a collaboration between the Art Institute in Chicago, where it is currently being shown before moving to The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, and London's Tate Modern.

The show, entitled "Lichtenstein: A Retrospective", runs from February 21 to May 27.

"He is this creature of really absorbing ambiguity and it's been a wonderful journey, for us curators to readdress the significance of Lichtenstein," Wagstaff added.

"You recognize a Lichtenstein, whatever style he is emulating."