This work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné being prepared by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.
Coup de Chapeau II is a true totem of Roy Lichtenstein's Pop art. Using the distinct visual aesthetic that revolutionized art in the 1960s, Lichtenstein develops his hallmark cartoon-derived imagery into a whole new dimension. Recalling the Dick Tracy comic strip, the detective's distinctive yellow hat is shown flying into the air after a confrontation with an assailant. The ferocious nature of the clash is delineated by the dramatic updraft of the swoosh together with the explosive nature of the moment of impact itself. Standing nearly eight feet tall, the imposing nature of the sculpture adds to this powerful narrative, with the hat flying off in dramatic fashion. The playful nature of Lichtenstein's early comic book paintings continues as Lichtenstein's French title, Coupe de Chapeau, translates as a tip of the hat and a gesture of respect-a polite action, far removed from the actual nature of the encounter itself. Created during the last years of Lichtenstein's life, the work stands as both an irreverent and poignant monument to the artist's accomplished career.
The dramatic meeting of hero and villain is a theme that has been constant throughout Lichtenstein's artistic career. From Popeye's thumping of his nemesis Bluto in Popeye, to the powerful upper cut in Sweet Dreams Baby, and the mid-air battle in what has probably become one of his most iconic paintings, Whaam!, the action sequence was one of the artist's favorite dramatic devices. It also appears in a painting of the same name, Coup de Chapeau II connects with the artist himself, as it relates to a self-portrait made in the same year, the painting titled Coup de Chapeau (Self Portrait), and is the very last self-portrait he created.
Sculpture had been a vital part of Lichtenstein's oeuvre since the mid-1940s, a forum to play with translations of space into two dimensions and back into three, much like the cubists' concern with sculpture. In a 1967 interview, Lichtenstein declared, "I was interested in putting two-dimensional symbols on a three-dimensional object" (J. Coplans, Roy Lichtenstein, 1967, p. 16). Among his sculptural creations of the 1960s was a series that explored the theme of explosions in a variety of free-standing and wall-mounted sculptures, which would find a later reincarnation in the center of Coup de Chapeau II. The 1990s witnessed a particular flourishing of the artist's sculptural work. Lichtenstein typically conceived his sculptures by sketching them out on paper, as exemplified in a 1995 sketch for Coup de Chapeau II. This drawing reveals how the artist developed the composition, choosing to turn the hat upwards and adding a double brim that dramatizes the action of tipping through the device of simultaneous narration familiar from cartoons.
Lichtenstein's sculptures resulted from his preoccupation with the formal qualities of art and the difficult task of representing the ephemeral quality of artistic illusionism. Coup de Chapeau II is the result of his dilemma of how to produce a three dimensional object whilst still retaining the aesthetic qualities of his two dimensional work. His unique solution was to combine several smooth colorful layers of paint onto a metal surface, to create a burst of three-dimensional illusionism. As Diane Waldman has observed, "Lichtenstein's sculpture is an extension of his painting. He accomplished two objectives: he reinforced the look of mechanical perfection that paint could only simulate but not duplicate and it provided the perfect opportunity to make an ephemeral form concrete" (D. Waldman, quoted in Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1971, p. 23).
Lichtenstein had used sculpture to pay his respects before, most explicitly in his Salute to Painting that was installed at the Walker Art Center in 1986, part of his celebrated brushstrokes series. Coup de Chapeau II shares with this monument the same insistent verticality that harks back to one the most elemental forms of ancient monuments, now reincarnated by Lichtenstein as an off-kilter Pop obelisk.
Coup de Chapeau II
Signed, numbered and dated '6/6 rf Lichtenstein '96' (on the base)
Roy Lichtenstein , 20th Century, Sculptures, Statues & Figures, United States of America, Post War
Chicago, Richard Gray Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein: Recent Drawings and Sculpture, November-December 1997, p. 39 (illustrated).
XLVII Venice Biennale, Italian Pavillion, Future, Present, and Past, June-November 1997.
Mexico City, Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Museo De Arte Contemporaneo De Monterrey, A. C., Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, Valencia, Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno; La Coruña, Fundación Pedro Barrié de la Maza; Lisbon, Centro Cultural de Belem, Roy Lichtenstein: Imágenes Reconocibles: Escultura, Pintura y Grafica (Corcoran Gallery of Art as Roy Lichtenstein: Sculpture & Drawings), July 1998-August 2000 (another example exhibited).
Miami, Museum of Contemporary Art, Roy Lichtenstein: Inside/Outside, December 2001-February 2002 (another example exhibited).
Paris, Tuileries, La Sculpture Contemporaine au Jardin des Tuileries, October 2000-2006 (another example exhibited).
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Roy Lichtenstein on the Roof, May-November 2003, (another example exhibited).
POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART
91 x 30 x 13 in. (231.1 x 76.2 x 33.7 cm.)
L. van Gelder, "Arts Briefing," New York Times, 30 April 2003, p. E2 (another example illustrated in color).
Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, New York
Richard Gray Gallery, New York
Private collection, Wellesley
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 13 November 2007, lot 27
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner