James Rosenquist

Born: Grand Forks, North Dakota

To learn more: jamesrosenquiststudio.com

“It all has meaning to me. As I explain my paintings, I hope that they get away from me, that the idea takes off and has a life of its own.”

James Rosenquist

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Jim Rosenquist had an itinerant childhood. An only child he moved with his family frequently throughout the Midwest. His parents shared with him their interest in airplanes and things mechanical. In junior high school Rosenquist took art classes, and he later won a scholarship to attend Saturday classes at the Minneapolis School of Art. After high school he enrolled in the University of Minnesota’s art program, studying with Cameron Booth. During the summer he worked for a contractor in Iowa, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, painting signs and bulk storage tanks.

In 1954 Rosenquist painted his first billboard for General Outdoor Advertizing in Minneapolis. A year later, on scholarship to the Art Students League in New York, Rosenquist studied with Edwin Dickinson, Will Barnet, Morris Kantor, George Grosz, and Vaclav Vytacil.

In 1957 Rosenquist joined the sign painters union and in 1958 went to work for ArtKraft Strauss Company painting billboards. He also worked on window displays for Bonwit Teller and Tiffany and Company.

By 1960 Rosenquist had set aside enough of his commercial earnings to allow him to spend a year painting in his studio. He moved to Coenties Slip, where he shared a loft with Charles Hinman. Rosenquist had tentatively explored the use of commercial methods and materials in his studio work of the late 1950s but after his move to the Slip, he left behind both the abstract expressionist and figurative modes he had employed in his early work and developed the montage like arrangement of deliberately fragmented images from popular culture–inconsistently scaled and enigmatically juxtaposed–that characterized the monumental paintings of his mature style.

Rosenquist had his first one-man exhibition at the Green Gallery in New York in 1962, and every painting was sold. In 1963 he completed a mural for the New York World’s Fair, and Art in America selected him as “Young Talent Painter” of the year. Two years later the artist finished painting the monumental, highly publicized F-111, which toured Europe during the 1960s and has been considered an important expression of the anti-Vietnam War movement. During the 1970s he became active in issues of artists’ rights legislation. In 1976 Rosenquist built his house and studio in Aripeka, Florida.

Since the early 1960s, Rosenquist has worked extensively at numerous printmaking workshops in addition to Graphicstudio, including Aeropress, Gemini G.E.L., Petersburg Press, Styria Studio, Tyler Graphics, Ltd., and Universal Limited Art Editions. Among Rosenquist’s honors is the World Print Award, which he received in 1983 from the World Print Council at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

A retrospective of Rosenquist’s graphic work was held at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida, in 1979. Additional exhibitions of his prints have been held at Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1975), Smith College Museum of Art (1985), and the U.S.F. Art Galleries (1988).

Important one-man exhibitions of Rosenquist’s work have been held at the Museo d’arte moderna, Turin, Italy (1965), National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1968), Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne (1972), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1972), National Gallery of Victoria, Australia (1977), Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo (1979), Denver Art Museum (1985), and Florida State University, Fine Art Gallery, Tallahassee (1988). (Fine/Corlett 1991, 209).