James Rosenquist
Birth Date: November 29, 1933
Death Date: March 31, 2017
Artist Gallery
James Rosenquist is one of the original exponents of Pop Art, whose pieces often defy immediate understanding as regards to content and compositional structure. Rosenquist was born in 1933 in Grand Forks, North Dakota, to Louis and Ruth Rosenquist. He was their only child, and they moved frequently around the Midwest while his father worked at odd jobs, such as pumping gas or being an airplane mechanic. His mother was an amateur painter, and both parents were pilots who had dreamed of starting a small airline business. While the Great Depression grounded those plans, the couple’s fondness for flight impressed their son, who like to build model airplanes and sketch battle scenes. By 1944 Rosenquist’s father had found a steady job with Mid-Continent Airlines and the family had settle in Minneapolis. As a child, the artist used to draw and illustrate long stories on rolled-out sheets of wallpaper. In junior high, a watercolor of a sunset won him a scholarship to Saturday art classes at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. He took classes in oil painting and egg tempera at the University of Minnesota. During the summer of 1953 he got a job as a sign painter in the Midwest – his canvases were gas tanks, grain elevators and billboards. Then in 1955, Rosenquist headed to New York and the Art Students League. There he met and hung out with Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline at the Cedar bar, along with artists of his own generation, such as Robert Rauschenberg. It was a less self-conscious time for young artists, he said. In 1962 his first solo show at the Green Gallery in New York sold out. Extraordinary success followed.