Executed in 1997, this work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné being prepared by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.
Interior with Painting and Still Life presents the viewer with an inventory of devices and techniques from the career of Roy Lichtenstein. In a sense, this large picture is a form of retrospective in microcosm, a notion that would, in hindsight, take on added meaning as it was painted the year Lichtenstein died. In the background is one of Lichtenstein's celebrated "girls", "a picture within a picture, painted with streaking diagonal lines as hatching as well as Benday dots and fields of deliberately variegated color. This appears almost to be a quotation from his iconic works from the 1960s, and indeed the source material for the image of the woman is from a 1962 copy of the comic Girls' Romances, which also inspired many of his most famous compositions. To the right, Lichtenstein has included an area of wood effect, while the foreground comprises a still life composition.
The juxtaposition of these various elements allows Lichtenstein to showcase many of the techniques and subjects that he explored during his life, as he dismantled and reconfigured the entire process of painting and of looking at pictures. Painstakingly creating meticulous works by applying brush to canvas, Lichtenstein incorporated a visual lexicon that had been appropriated from print media such as comic books and advertisements, where a short-hand visual language allowed people to understand concepts such as shading through the use of stripes or dots. Yet Lichtenstein was deliberately, if playfully, writing out in long-hand this visual language as well as wryly alluding to the heroic signature marks of the Abstract Expressionists in the form of the individual brushstrokes that made up works such as Interior with Painting and Still Life.
Although he is widely recognized as one of the founders of Pop Art, a movement that was regarded at the time as one of the most radical interventions in the history of painting, Lichtenstein was a great student of art history and would have been knowledgeable about the historical traditions of both still life and portraiture. Still life's centuries-old tradition afforded Lichtenstein the opportunity to indulge his fascination with a composition's formal qualities. In Interior with Painting and Still Life, Lichtenstein selects objects with a variety of surfaces--the wooden box, the reflective glass bottle, and the carpeted floor--presenting a rich combination of forms and textures to explore. The inclusion of one of the artist's iconic images of a young woman in the composition recalls the famous Girl paintings which helped to establish his reputation as an artist in the 1960s. These paintings, based on images taken from 1950s romance comic books, again display Lichtenstein's interest in form and composition. Using the Benday dots of the industrial printing process, Lichtenstein replicates images he finds in cheap magazines popular with young women of the day. But rather than just copying the images directly, he often manipulates the composition to produce an image that contained more intrigue or ambiguity than the original.
"You know, all my subjects are always two-dimensional or at least they come from two-dimensional sources. In other words, even if I'm painting a room, it's an image of a room that I got from a furniture ad in a phone book, which is a two-dimensional source. This has meaning for me in that when I came onto the scene, abstract artists like Frank Stella or Ellsworth Kelly were making paintings the point of which was that the painting itself became an object, a thing, like a sculpture, in its own right, not an illusion of something else. And what I've been trying to say all this time is similar: that even if my work looks like it depicts something, it's essentially a flat two-dimensional image, an object" (R. Lichtenstein, quoted in M. Kimmelman, PORTRAITS, Talking with Artists at the Met, The Modern, The Louvre and Elsewhere, reproduced at www.lichtensteinfoundation.org).
In Interior with Painting and Still Life two of the most important genres--portraiture and still life--have been condensed to their most significant compositional components and rendered in Lichtenstein's iconic style. An homage to the distinctive elements that defined Western painting in earlier periods, Lichtenstein's tie to past masters in turn defined his practice: "All my art is in some way about other art, even if the other art is cartoons" (R. Lichtenstein quoted in J. Hendrickson, Roy Lichtenstein, Cologne, 2000, n. p.). Like Andy Warhol's Do It Yourself, 1962 Lichtenstein's style implies a democratization of art, while honoring the great traditions of Western art, and in doing so he condensed the traditions contained within them concisely, and with humor, style and infinite grace.
Interior with Painting and Still Life
Oil and mineral spirits acrylic on canvas
Signed and dated 'rf Lichtenstein '97' (on the reverse)
Roy Lichtenstein , 20th Century, Paintings, United States of America, Post War
Zurich, Galerie Lawrence Rubin and London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein, September-November 1997, pp. 24-25 (illustrated in color).
New York, Lawrence Rubin Greenberg Van Doren Fine Art, Roy Lichtenstein: Drawings, Collages and Paintings, April- June 1999.
POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART
63½ x 56 in. (161.3 x 142.2 cm.)
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Anthony D'Offay Gallery, London
Lawrence Rubin Greenberg Van Doren Fine Art, New York
Galerie Lawrence Rubin, Zurich
Acquired from the above by the present owner