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The Evolution of the Lichtenstein Studio

Front elevation of 741-745 Washington Street via Google Maps, 2022.

The Greenwich Village Historic District is one of NYC’s oldest and largest, encompassing over 100 blocks and 2,200 buildings. One of those buildings plays a role in history much greater than suggested by the meager two-sentence description provided in the 1969 Designation Report. The entry for 741-745 Washington Street between Bank and Bethune Streets simply states: “This two-story brick commercial building with garage on the first floor was built in 1912-13. Crowned by a paneled parapet, this structure is in scale with the adjacent row of Greek Revival brick residences.”

733-753 Washington Street (R-L; 745 Washington Street is the fifth building from the right)

For most of its history, the building served an industrial purpose. It was originally an ironworks foundry and served as a steel fabricating business. But the site has gained prominence since landmark designation in 1969. In May 1988, artist Roy Lichtenstein (October 27, 1923 – September 29, 1997) set up a studio and residence at 741-745 Washington Street.

741 Washtington Street as seen in the 1940s tax photo

Although raised on the Upper West Side, Lichtenstein would become one of the countless artists who called the Village home. He previously had studios at 36 West 26th Street and 190 Bowery during the peak years of his career, and he would live and work at 741-745 Washington Street until his death in 1997.

The building’s industrial past and aesthetic seem fitting for an artist’s space with some modifications. Lichtenstein constructed his wooden easel walls around the perimeter, allowing him to work on large and wall-sized artworks. The building experienced several rounds of expansion and modification prior to the artist purchasing the property and following the acquisition, in 1937, 1941, 1972, 1987, 1990, and 2008.

View of Roy Lichtenstein’s studio ca. 1991 via the LPC Application via Estate of Roy Lichtenstein via NY Times

Since 1997 the building served as a base of operations for the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation. Until recently, his widow Dorothy still lived in the building, which had been renovated to include a glorious rooftop sculpture garden.

In early 2022, it was announced that the building would be donated to the Whitney Museum by the artist’s widow to serve the museum’s Independent Study Program. This program is well known for nurturing the next generation of artists, curators, art historians, and writers, but has never had a permanent home since its founding in 1968. The program will open in the space in 2023, the centennial of Lichtenstein’s birth

Lichtenstein in his studio, 1986. Image via LPC application

“I love the idea,” said Dorothy in the NY Times, “that the studio which Roy loved so much will continue to have meaning.”

To accommodate the Independent Study Program, the Whitney secured approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission for a one-story addition and facade modifications. Following the renovation, the first and second floors will be open to Independent Study Program students while the third floor will host visiting artists and scholars in residence.

The addition will be built using handmade bricks and the central window will tie the rhythm of the upper floor in with the rest of the building.

A rendering showing the proposed addition. Image via LPC application

Click here to read more about Lichtenstein and the Village. Click here to view the LPC application for modifications to this property.

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