'Isabel & Roy' Spotlights Lichtenstein's Cleveland Years

In late 2017, “Masterpiece,” a painting by the late-pop art master Roy Lichtenstein, sold for $165 million in a private sale.

Roy Lichtenstein posing with Masterpiece in 1962. ideastream's "Isabel & Roy" debuts on May 20 at 7:30 p.m. on WVIZ/PBS ideastream. [Bill Ray]

It was a far cry from the early 1950s, when the young artist was struggling to find acceptance as a painter in Cleveland, a place he called home for six years.

Roy and his sons David and Mitchell in Cleveland, circa 1956 [Carol Salus]

With a growing family to support, Lichtenstein got pick up work where he could find it, like giving art lessons, working as an engineering draftsman for Republic Steel and designing store windows for the Halle Brothers department store in Shaker Square.

Isabel Lichtenstein [John Paulding Historical Society]

Roy’s wife, Isabel, was the family’s breadwinner and a prominent interior decorator. Isabel Lichtenstein developed a clientele of upper-middle-class Clevelanders who appreciated her taste for what’s now known as mid-century modern design. She was a female entrepreneur at a time when many women were homemakers.

Isabel Lichtenstein at Ten-Thirty Gallery [Kent State University Special Collections]

Roy Lichtenstein's impact on the art world is well documented, but the story of his pre-pop days in Cleveland and the woman who supported him as he developed his signature style is largely unknown.

ideastream traces that tale in the new documentary, "Isabel & Roy," debuting May 20 at 7:30 p.m. on WVIZ/PBS ideastream. The program features rarely seen archival photos and interviews with their clients, friends and Roy and Isabel’s son Mitchell.

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