Roy Lichtenstein Preparedness 1968.


A kaleidoscope of primary colours and geometric shapes beams out from the three panels of this huge painting (10 3 18 ft). On the left is a collage of industrial plants, smoke stacks, turbines and silos—cold, lifeless and impersonal. In the upper half of the central panel, the mechanical theme continues but the colours are now warm and alive. Worker power (a hammer in a powerful grip) and the spirit of humanity (pink) permeate the industrial infrastructure whilst the red background emphasizes life and the human cost of work. The red gantry linking the three panels connects this life force to a lone soldier in the right panel. Below the gantry through the riveted windscreen of a transport plane (possibly a Hercules C-130), we can see a row of resolute ‘Airborne’ combat troops (numbers exaggerated by the profound linear perspective) on their way to the war zone, the red background a reminder of their potential fate. (Underneath a pale blue triangle with Gothic lettering may imply a damning newspaper headline.) In the right panel, a lone soldier stands to attention, pack on his back, rifle on his shoulder, bayonet fixed. Immediately to his left, the riveted frame of another windshield (possibly a Fairchild UC-123K) reveals the discoloured and barren fields of Vietnam, laid waste by the defoliant Agent Orange of which 45 million litres were sprayed over 6 years [1]. A pink human line connects the soldier to the central panel via a half-revealed cog (symbolizing his insignificance) below which a hub of red, yellow and black may refer to the herbicide’s military coding label. The bold primary colours, strong black outlines, mechanical styling and implied human dignity are very reminiscent of Lichtenstein’s hero the French artist Ferdinand Léger [2]. Preparedness, an ‘altar-like triptych of billboard proportions’, was painted in 1968 when US public opinion on the Vietnam War had changed dramatically [3]. Lichtenstein described it as ‘a muralesque painting about our military-industrial complex’ and intended it to be a social commentary on the US call-to-arms. [4] His hard-edged, geometric precision celebrates technology but his ironic parody of some hackneyed concepts

DOI: 10.1093/occmed/kqq205

Cite this paper

@article{McKiernan2011RoyLP, title={Roy Lichtenstein Preparedness 1968.}, author={Mike McKiernan}, journal={Occupational medicine}, year={2011}, volume={61 2}, pages={76-7} }