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Landscape with Red Sky
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Landscape with Red Sky
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About the item

Exploding in an exquisite panoply of bold primary colors, Roy Lichtenstein’s Landscape with Red Sky from 1985 is a magnificently complex milestone in the painter’s enduringly evolving exploration of art-making, perfectly summarizing Lichtenstein’s ultimate project of painting pictures about pictures. The immense expanse of the canvas erupts into a panorama of Lichtenstein’s most iconic thick bold lines, borrowed from the comic strip lexicon, and deceptively expressionistic brush strokes—a brilliant chaos that upon close examination reveals itself as meticulously controlled spontaneity. Executed at the apex of Lichtenstein’s trailblazing and perennially inventive career, Landscape with Red Sky reflects Pop Art at its most sophisticated and self-aware. Formally, the painting denotes a fearless departure from the tightly confined representational compositions that characterized Lichtenstein’s earlier oeuvre. Predominantly red, horizontal swooshes rip across the top quarter of the canvas, sketching a smoldering sunset sky. Below a kinetic horizon line hemming the sky, a topography of abstracted houses, clouds, trees, hills and water resplendently swoop across the surface as though swept in a cataclysmic gust of wind, arousing a dynamic motion that pulls us into its sublime assemblage.\nLichtenstein’s early re-contextualization of widely circulated mass media images engineered the architectural fabric of Pop imagery, profoundly upsetting the division between “low” and “high” art and toppling the tenuous hierarchies of aesthetic judgment. The artist’s eponymous lexicon of comic-inspired Benday dots, hard graphic lines and vivid color palette carried into the art history-inspired paintings that Lichtenstein began in the early 1960s, whose interrogation of the canon of “high” art culminated in the present work. Following his aesthetic engagement with reproductions of masterpieces by Cézanne, Mondrian, and Picasso, Lichtenstein made paintings that isolated precisely drawn cartoon brushstrokes, enlarged and exaggerated as a sardonic comment on the heroic, gestural handling of paint that epitomized the Abstract Expressionists. Landscape with Red Sky marks the most sophisticated and visually spellbinding climax of Lichtenstein’s challenges to the distinction between good and bad taste, incorporating the manicured, highly planned strokes of his 1965-66 Brushstroke paintings, while introducing for the first time intersecting brushwork that implies the very same thick, painterly impasto that Lichtenstein satirizes.\nUpon examination, these seemingly gestural strokes are reduced to small, precise, mechanically applied whisks of paint that are clean, cool facsimiles of the Abstract Expressionist indulgence for the muscular swoosh, the drip and the splatter. Asked in 1986 about how the purportedly ‘real’ brushstrokes seem so controlled, Lichtenstein retorted, “It’s because I don’t want it to look like a modulated area. I want it to look like a brushstroke. They don’t all come out that way, but they are supposed to look like instances of the perfect brush stroke.” (the artist quoted in BOMB, 14, Winter 1986) Lichtenstein underscored his piercingly clever visual inventiveness and conceptual sophistication: “It’s taking something that originally was supposed to mean immediacy and I’m tediously drawing something that looks like a brushstroke…I want it to look as though it were painstaking. It’s a picture of a picture really and it’s a misconstrued picture of a picture.” (the artists cited in Exh. Cat, Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective, 2012, p. 50)\nFor the Pop artists of Lichtenstein’s generation, their Abstract Expressionist forebears cast overwhelming shadows, inspiring admiration and reverence, but also representing a sense of an imposed and standardized style. Lichtenstein counters this stifling climate in the creation of his stylized "brushtroke" imagery, suggesting the heroic allover brushwork of Abstract Expressionism had lost its hallowed avant-garde status. By the 60s, the macho abstraction permeated the public cultural lexicon to such an extent that it could be likened to the consumer mass media advertisements and comic strips that served as the artist’s initial Pop art source material. “Far from continuing to shock the bourgeoisie, Abstract Expressionism has made its way into the average American home: ‘Once the hurdle of its non-objectivity is overcome, A-E is as prone to be decorative as French Impressionism.’ Shortly thereafter, Lichtenstein featured in a Life pictorial in which he was portrayed as an anti-Pollock, his mechanical style of reproducing his comic-book sources implicitly contrasted with Pollock’s frenzied creativity.” (Ibid., p. 49)\nThe present work riffs not only on Abstract Expressionism, but on the centuries-old, clichéd genre of landscape painting. Inverting a landscape picture’s representational goal of enfolding the viewer into its pastoral reality, Lichtenstein’s rendering provides no one clear vantage point—our eyes dart across the vibrant surface, which possesses the ineffable motion and speed of a hard-edged Futurist composition by Giacomo Balla fused with de Kooning’s characteristic brushy, all-over confluence of figuration and abstraction. In painting a landscape through the same aesthetic iconography as his cartoon paintings and art history paintings, Lichtenstein puts Van Gogh and Dufy on the same level as a comic strip or advertisement, convincingly melding the high and the low as only he could accomplish. What is refreshingly invigorating about looking at a Lichtenstein such as the present work is a stunning lack of iconoclasm—he parodies, satirizes and critically examines, but at the very heart of Lichtenstein’s painting is a true admiration and indefatigable ardor for all pictures. He revels in the visual pleasure of our image-swollen society; his work is punchy and ironic, but never mean-spirited. He is an enthusiast of the highest order. Magnificent in its sheer scale and dynamic vigor, Landscape with Red Sky vividly lays bare the terms of its own making and embodies Lichtenstein’s most compelling subject matter—art itself.\nSigned and dated '85 on the reverse
US
NY, US
US

medium

Oil and magna on canvas

creator

Roy Lichtenstein

condition

This painting is in very good condition. There is a ¾" semi-circular area of accretion and discoloration 30 ¼" from the right and 25" from the top edge near a red brushstroke, as well as a much smaller area of discoloration 15" from the top edge at center. A number of minute flyspecks are scattered on the surface, predominately throughout the center third of the canvas. Close inspection shows two faint abrasions in a "Y" shaped formation, with attendant white pigment transfer over black pigment, located 18 to 20 ½" from the right edge and 40 to 44" from the bottom. There is an extremely faint hairline crack 35 to 36 ¼" from the bottom at the left edge surrounded by three very faint and light scuffs. There is a 1 ½" area of light discoloration to the dark blue pigment at the center left edge. Under ultraviolet light there are no apparent restorations. The canvas is framed in a blonde wood strip frame. In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

dimensions

108 x 77 in. 274.3 x 195.5 cm.

exhibition

New York, Leo Castelli Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein, November - December 1985, illustrated in color on the exhibition announcement

provenance

Leo Castelli Gallery, New York (LC #991) Meshulam Riklis, Beverly Hills (acquired from the above in June 1985) Christie's, New York, May 3, 1994, Lot 69 Acquired by the present owner from the above

signedDate

Signed and dated '85 on the reverse

creator_nationality_dates

1923 - 1997


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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