Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck got the modern-art treatment on this day in 1962, when artist Roy Lichtenstein included Look Mickey in the opening of his first solo exhibition. You can see the painting these days at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
The piece appeared at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York. Castelli chose to display Look Mickey over Andy Warhol’s comic-strip-inspired work, leading Warhol to choose a different route and create the Campbell Soup Cans series.
Look Mickey was a turning point in Lichtenstein’s evolution from abstract expressionism to pop art. It marked the first time he used Ben-Day dots (forming the blush on Mickey’s face) and speech balloons in his work. It was influential and also satirical – the painting is a simplified, primary-color remake of a scene depicted in the 1960 children’s book “Donald Duck Lost and Found.”
Lichtenstein is believed to be poking fun at himself, with a soon-to-be-embarrassed Donald peering at the artist’s initials in the water while Mickey, representing the modern-art establishment, can barely contain himself.