A big fan of comic books as a child, and fascinated by the works of various cartoonists, Lichtenstein eventually began to study comic strips and cartoons as art, discovering many parallels between these works and those of many fine arts masters who had come before. It was his admiration of comic book artists and the tireless study of their techniques that eventually gave birth to Lichtenstein's innovative pop art style.
This work, Kiss V, painted in 1964, is but one of several cartoon-based images created during the height of Lichtenstein's popularity. We see in this piece the hallmarks of a Roy Lichtenstein painting such as the use of bold primary colours and Ben-Day dots. This piece almost seems to convey an impression of commercial art at first glance. However, if we spend some time appreciating the scene in Kiss V, we can see that this is a melodramatic scene filled with complicated emotions.
As with many other Pop Art paintings created by Lichtenstein, this one depicts a distraught yellow-haired woman with bright red lips engaged in an unhappy scene with a man. In Kiss V, her hand tightly grips his shoulder, giving us the feeling that her emotions are wrapped around him even more firmly. White tears fill her eyes and roll down her cheeks as she closes her eyes. The use of white among the bright colours and flesh tones of the subjects draws our attention to the woman's display of emotion.
It's uncertain what the backstory might be between these two characters. Perhaps they are breaking up, locked together in a painful embrace as they say goodbye to one another with one last kiss. Or, maybe we are witnessing a happier moment, such as tears of joy brought about by a reunion after a long and distressing separation.
The work of Roy Lichtenstein clearly shows influences of comic books and pulp novels, but in using these influences to create his own signature Pop Art style, Lichtenstein created memorable paintings that along with Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol, among many others, made him leading figure in the Pop Art movement.