James Rosenquist, one of the first pop artists, was born in Grand Fork, North Dakota, in 1933 and grew up in Minneapolis, where he attended art school. He went to New York City in 1955 to study at The Art Students League, and by the late 1950s, had met fellow artists Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, and Robert Indiana, all important figures in the transition from abstract expressionism to pop.
While at the University of Minnesota, Rosenquist had painted outdoor advertising, and on arriving in New York worked painting billboards high above Times Square. He applied techniques used in his commercial work to his painting, and in a collage-like manner, juxtaposed images from advertising and mass media such as automobile tires, canned spaghetti, and movie stars. His broad themes related to an American culture of consumerism, and his paintings from the early 1960s are pictorial narratives of contemporary America.