This work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné being prepared by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.
Woman with Flowered Hat is a wry Pop assault on one of Roy Lichtenstein's most venerated artistic predecessors. In this painting, the primary hues of his faux-print technique meets the distorted features of a Picasso portrait, creating an artful and meticulous collision between two trademark styles. Executed in 1963, this is a classic example of Pop Art from the movement's earliest beginnings. Barely two years before, Lichtenstein had made a drastic and permanent breakthrough with his audacious decision to paint subjects based on commercial illustrations and comic imagery. This almost Duchampian process of appropriation, artistic piracy, and rebellion electrified the art world and brought him almost instantaneous fame. He had taken images and objects from popular culture and smuggled them into the realms of High Art. With the present work he began to reverse the process by converting the hallowed canon of art into "five-and-dime-store" pictures.
Woman with Flowered Hat clearly undermines the revered status of the artist and of the art work. While this may seem a paradoxical aim on the part of someone who has followed the vocation of becoming an artist, it is precisely one of the factors that has defined so many of Lichtenstein's greatest works. Among them are his renditions of modern artists and art movements, which force viewers to re-evaluate the reality of art through the simple act of re-presentation. Woman with Flowered Hat was created during the heyday of his iconic comic-inspired heroines and it is one of Lichtenstein's earliest appropriations of High Art subjects. Its significance has been widely acknowledged by extensive critical analysis as well as its inclusion in landmark exhibitions within the artist's lifetime, including the Venice Biennale in 1966; Lichtenstein's first retrospective organized by the Pasadena Art Museum in 1967; the Tate gallery's first show dedicated to a living American artist in 1968; and the major retrospective survey organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York in 1994.
Between 1962-63, Lichtenstein produced four paintings based on Picasso's portraits of women: Femme au chapeau (1962, Private Collection), Femme d'Alger, (1963, The Eli and Edyth L. Broad Collection), Femme dans un fauteuil (1963, Nationalgalerie, Berlin), and the present work. Woman with Flowered Hat was the fourth in the series, and it is based on a reproduction sent to Lichtenstein by Morton Neumann, a Chicago businessman and art collector who owned the original Picasso painting and had lately begun acquiring Pop Art as well. The subject of Woman with Flowered Hat is Dora Maar, Picasso's muse and lover from 1936 to the mid-1940s. From the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War through to the end of the Second World War, Picasso's depictions of Dora often reflected the era's troubled events, as well as the artist's own capricious emotions. His many portraits typically show her as a tormented figure, with extraordinary hats that sometimes resemble the silhouettes of warships, or the tail fins of a high-explosive bomb.
Dora had been one of the protagonists of the Surrealist movement before she met Picasso; their first legendary encounter supposedly occurred when Picasso spotted her in a café playing with a knife, which she was stabbing through the gaps in her splayed fingers, occasionally missing, cutting her gloves and drawing her own blood. This dark side to her character fascinated Picasso and stood in stark contrast to the wholesome youth and femininity of his then lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter, mother of his daughter Maya. The pair happened to meet again while holidaying in Mougins and Dora displaced Marie-Thérèse as Picasso's mistress shortly after. The two women were complete opposites. Marie-Thérèse was the incarnation of peace and innocence with her fair hair, athletic looks and submissive nature, while the raven haired Dora had a hard, haughty beauty and a mysterious and complex personality. She became Picasso's 'weeping woman' whose lovely features he habitually converted into a mask of sorrow.
Like the weeping young women in Lichtenstein's comic paintings, Dora is commonly represented as the archetypal damsel in distress and it may be this sense of drama that attracted him to the subject. Picasso's famously convoluted love-life could certainly match the emotional turbulence found in the romance comics Lichtenstein commonly referenced. At one point Dora and Marie-Thérèse even fought it out for Picasso's affection. "I liked them both, for different reasons," Picasso himself explained. "Marie-Thérèse because she was sweet and gentle and did whatever I wanted her to, and Dora because she was intelligent. I decided I had no interest in making a decision. I was satisfied with things as they were. I told them they'd have to fight it out themselves. So they began to wrestle. It's one of my choicest memories" (Picasso, quoted in A. Stanissopoulos Huffington, Picasso: Creator and Destroyer, London, 1988, p. 234).
Picasso painted his own Woman with Flowered Hat in 1939-40, when he had fled Paris because of the prospect of invasion. The original artwork was therefore executed in a very poignant, intense moment for the artist and its bold, jagged forms and densely worked pigments abound with a sense of expressive energy. Lichtenstein's approach to painting is far more calculated and conceptual by comparison. He empties out the emotionalism and spontaneity of Picasso's work, and his handling of paint is almost rigid in its impersonality, precision and clarity. While the Dora Maar portraits are famed for their wild colors and the palpable anxiety communicated by her contorted features, Lichtenstein's version submits these qualities to dramatic simplification. The composition retains all the essential features of the original but its nuances of color, texture, form and line have been streamlined by the mock-mechanization of Lichtenstein's newfound technique. Primary colors, uniform planes and Ben Day dots replace a complex palette and subtle tonal modulations. The perversely flat forms of Lichtenstein's Pop idiom have deflated the world of sensuality and of painterly indulgence.
Another marked change to the original is the fact that the brooding brunette has been swapped for a blue-eyed blonde. It is as if Lichtenstein has converted Dora's troubled image back into the sunny countenance of Marie-Thérèse to make her more appealing. Describing the metamorphoses the original has undergone, Lichtenstein stated: "I've changed the face color to the pink dots and the hair color to yellow, since all my girls have yellow hair, almost all of them do. And I was curious to see what it would look like with a more pseudo-realistic color, sort of correcting Picasso as though he had made an error in making the face blue. And one of the purposes of it is to make what looks like an insensitive reproduction of the Picasso, and changing the color of face and hair to ones that would be more conventional would be part of that insensitivity, and there is a general change of shape in the whole position of the head" (R. Lichtenstein, quoted in R. Baker, Oral history Interview with Roy Lichtenstein, 1963 Nov. 15-1964 Jan. 15, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution reproduced at http://www.aaa.si.edu/).
This lack of sensitivity or painterly sensibility relates to Lichtenstein's desire to jolt the viewer into a zone of discomfort. The self-conscious crudity of Picasso's style once held the power to shock, but even his most distorted and brutal images had long been accepted as part of art history. By mimicking the aggressive, reductive techniques of cheap commercial printing techniques, Lichtenstein drags what was revered as high art into the realms of vulgarity, of the tabloid, the billboard and the magazine. And it is this realm of reproduction, of the international distribution of simulacra, which had gained ever-greater importance in the modern age. Indeed, Picasso's powerful celebrity and immense cultural currency could not have been achieved without it.
When Woman with Flowered Hat is seen in relation to the immaculate sharpness of Lichtenstein's later work, however, it possesses a striking handmade quality that is difficult to perceive at a distance. The subtle drafting outlines and variations in paint application all underline the force of Lichtenstein's creative sublimation to this rigid process of replicating the machine. His deliberate and painstaking method of painting in uninflected color and half-tone dots not only makes the viewer immediately aware that they are looking at a copy, but also embeds evidence that the work is a copy of a copy. The result is an irreverent reincarnation that dismantles the abstract and formal properties of one of the world's most recognizable styles, while highlighting the power of reproductions to both enhance and distort the "aura" of original artworks.
Lichtenstein's strategies were recognized as an affront to the work of painters from the previous generation and their passionately held views on originality, invention, and expressivity. Not only was his work blatantly representational after decades of denying representation, but it also aligned itself with the kitschy lowbrow tastes of the public. His paintings may have been a world away from the energetic brushwork, splashing, dribbling and splattering of the Abstract Expressionists but Lichtenstein did identify a struggle within their work that he has used to his own ends--their effort to get away from Picasso. De Kooning, Gorky, Pollock, et al. had all grappled with Picasso in the development of their personal styles, with de Kooning often referring to him as "the one to beat." But it was Lichtenstein who finally had the daring to tackle him head-on. As he would explain, "...most artists--de Kooning and Pollock (especially)--both seemed to have enormous Picasso influences on them and I think everyone was under the shadow of Picasso, and suddenly to do one that really looked like Picasso seemed very liberating" (R. Lichtenstein, quoted in G. Mercurio, Lichtenstein: Meditations on Modern art, exh. cat., Milan, 2010, p.137).
With works like Woman with Flowered Hat, Lichtenstein went into combat with his heroes and completely overturned the soul-searching painterliness of New York's Post-War artists. Yet this act of transgression was not without deference and respect as the painting confesses a longstanding influence that Lichtenstein was never quite able to shake. Towards the end of his life, Lichtenstein admitted with his typically sardonic wit that he still probably wasn't entirely free of the Spanish painter's sway: "Picasso's always been such a huge influence that I thought when I started the cartoon paintings that I was getting away from Picasso, and even my cartoons of Picasso were done almost to rid myself of his influence. I don't think that I'm over his influence but they probably don't look like Picassos; Picasso himself would probably have thrown up looking at my pictures" (R. Lichtenstein, quoted in 'Interview with David Sylvester', New York City, April 1997, reproduced in Lichtenstein: All about Art, London, 2003, p. 58).
The trace of Picasso's authority can be felt throughout the breadth of Lichtenstein's career. In the catalogue for the recent retrospective show organized by the Tate and the Art Institute of Chicago, Iria Candela divides the impact of Picasso on Lichtenstein's work into two 'acts'. The first was Lichtenstein's pre-Pop phase; from his formative years as an artist laboring under the shadow of Picasso, to the 1950s when even his most Abstract Expressionist paintings retained an inflection of the School of Paris. The second phase came in 1961 with the renegade change of style and content that would define the rest of Lichtenstein's oeuvre. Picasso's presence would continually reappear in this new era, but now Lichtenstein had assumed a kind of conceptual detachment that enabled him to cope with the master on his own terms. Woman with Flowered Hat is one of the first examples in which Lichtenstein directly tackles Picasso's art within his Pop paintings. In subsequent decades he would go on to cite Picasso's style in large-scale scenes of biomorphic figures, in still-lifes and interior subjects, and even in his final, unfinished painting which depicts a Cubist musician with the hand of Mickey Mouse.
In Woman with Flowered Hat Lichtenstein is overtly stating his intention that he was making art about art. His interest had always resided in artistic symbolism and how meaning can be conveyed through the seemingly random act of applying paint to a surface. The images of isolated consumer items and comic book frames were just as much about the method of conveyance, but the lowly status these referents held in the realm of visual culture often distracted viewers from apprehending the underlying principles at work. In order to more explicitly highlight the way visual conventions operate, Lichtenstein decided to address the legacy of the modern masters before him. In 1962 he produced two works after didactic reproductions of Cezanne paintings, Man with Folded Arms (The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles) and the diagrammatic Portrait of Madame Cézanne, which sparked a furor after the author of the source material objected to the quotation. These paintings and the Picasso portraits produced shortly afterwards mark the first of many artistic ironic reprisals of artworks. Lichtenstein would eventually apply his comic style to ersatz versions of Mondrian abstractions, the haystacks and cathedrals of Monet, Futurist, Surrealist, and German Expressionist art, as well as aping the Abstract Expressionists in the Brushstroke series. All these artforms had become part of readily available, mass-produced culture and Lichtenstein treated them roughly the same way Andy Warhol treated Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor--as brand identities in the public domain. Indeed, Warhol himself would later take up Lichtenstein's baton by examining the celebrity status of art with his silk-screened paintings of Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa and Last Supper and Edvard Munch's The Scream.
Out of all the genres Lichtenstein turned his hand to it was Picasso who perhaps made the most natural target as his work was so well-known that it essentially was already Pop: "a Picasso has become a kind of popular object," he stated, "one has the feeling there should be a reproduction of Picasso in every home" (R. Lichtenstein, quoted in J. Hendrickson, Roy Lichtenstein, Cologne, 2000, p. 59). It is important to remember, though, that Woman with Flowered Hat is more a homage than a parody. Lichtenstein is reinterpreting Picasso's work for the contemporary world, making him current, giving him a new visual relevance. From 1963 onwards he dedicated himself to this path, examining the work of his elders in a way that Robert Hughes identified as being "post-modernist before the term got going". "[Since 1963] instead of using subject matter that was considered vernacular, or everyday, I used subject matter that was celebrated as art," Lichtenstein stated. "What I wanted to express is not that Picasso was known and therefore commonplace. Nobody thought of Picasso as common. What I am painting is a kind of Picasso done the way a cartoonist does it, or the way it might be described to you, so it loses the subtleties of Picasso, but it takes on other characteristics; the Picasso is converted to my pseudo-cartoon style and takes on a character of its own" (R. Lichtenstein, quoted in G. Mercurio, op. cit., p. 137).
Woman with Flowered Hat
Magna on canvas
Please note that this work has been requested for the exhibition Picasso and Contemporary Art, at the Grand Palais in Paris, September 2015.
Property of an East Coast Collector
Signed and dated 'rf Lichtenstein '63' (on the reverse)
Roy Lichtenstein , 20th Century, Paintings, United States of America, Post War
New York, Knoedler & Company, Lawyers Collect: An Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture Selected from the Private Collections of Members of the New York Bar, January 1965.
XXXIII Venice Biennale, United States Pavillion, Helen Frankenthaler, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Jules Olitski, June-October 1966, p. 15 (illustrated in color).
Pasadena Art Museum; Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Roy Lichtenstein, April-July 1967.
London, Tate Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein, January-February 1968 p. 34, no. 17 (illustrated).
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, American Pop Art, April-June 1974 p. 81, no. 38 (illustrated).
Joseph Haubrich-Kunsthalle Koln; Cologne, Museum Ludwig; St. Louis Art Museum, Roy Lichtenstein: 1970-1980, May 1981-April 1982.
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Lichtenstein's Picassos: 1962-1964, February-March 1988, n.p., (illustrated in color).
New York, Blum Helman, Roy Lichtenstein: Pop Masterpieces 1961-1964, May-June 1987, no. 14.
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Roy Lichtenstein, October 1993-September 1994, p. 36, no. 37 (illustrated in color).
POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART
50 1/8 x 40¼ in. (127.3 x 102.2 cm.)
D. Seiberling,"Is He the Worst Artist in the U.S.?" Life, 31 January 1964 (illustrated in color).
H. Geldzahler, "Frankenthaler, Kelly, Lichtenstein, Olitski: A Preview of the American Selection of the 1966 Venice Biennale," Artforum, June 1966, p. 33 (illustrated in color).
L. Lippard, Pop Art, New York, 1966, p. 89, no. 69 (illustrated in color).
A. Boatto and G. Falzoni, eds., Lichtenstein, Italy, 1966, p. 33 (illustrated).
S. Dali, "How an Elvis Presley Becomes a Roy Lichtenstein," Arts Magazine, no. 41, April 1967, p. 31 (illustrated).
C. Andreae, "Trying to Shock-himself," Christian Science Monitor, 18 September 1969, section II, p. 11 (illustrated).
M. Kozloff, "Lichtenstein at the Guggenheim," Artforum, vol. 8, no. 3, November 1969, p. 43 (illustrated).
D. Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, 1969, p. 43 (illustrated).
N. Calas, "Roy Lichtenstein: Insight through Irony," Arts Magazine, vol. 44, no. 1, September/October 1969, p. 31 (illustrated).
J. Weber, Pop Art, Munich, 1970, p. 62 (illustrated).
D. Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, 1971, pl. 62 (illustrated in color).
S. Hunter, American Art of the 20th Century, New York, 1972, p. 682 (illustrated in color).
L. Alloway, American Pop Art, New York, 1974, pl. 70 (illustrated).
D. Schaff, "A Conversation with Roy Lichtenstein," Art International, January/February 1980, p. 28 (illustrated).
P. Vogt, Contemporary Painting, New York, 1981, pl. 44 (illustrated in color).
J. Cowart, Roy Lichtenstein: 1970-1980, New York, 1981, p. 110 (illustrated).
L. Alloway, Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1983, p. 44-45 and 85 (illustrated in color).
E. Heartney, "Roy Lichtenstein, Gagosian," ARTnews, May 1988, p. 165 (illustrated).
D. Kazanjian, Vogue, October, 1989 (illustrated in color).
M. Bernadac, "Picasso au tamis de Lichtenstein: le style contre l'image," ArtStudio, vol. 20, spring 1991, p. 71 (illustrated in color).
D. Wheeler, Art Since Mid-Century: 1945 to the Present, New York, 1991, p. 149 (illustrated in color).
M. Lobel, Image Duplicator: Roy Lichtenstein and the Emergence of Pop Art, New Haven, 2002, pp. 60 and 62 (illustrated).
M. FitzGerald, Picasso and American Art, New York, 2006, p. 255 (illustrated).
N. Dunne, Roy Lichtenstein, exh. cat., London, Tate Modern, 2012, p. 40 (illustrated in color).
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Mr. and Mrs. Leon A. Mnuchin, New York
Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Tyson, New York
Gagosian Gallery, New York
Mr. and Mrs. S.I. Newhouse, New York
Gagosian Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
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