After Sachs and Lichtenstein met in Southampton in the summer of 1968, Sachs sent a letter to Lichtenstein to discuss the design and fabrication of bespoke works by him which would be destined to adorn the bathtub and sink of Sachs’ legendary penthouse apartment in the Palace Hotel in St-Moritz: “If you permit I would propose that the painting on the large side of the bathing-tub (60 by 200 cm) should show a girl's face, perhaps with tears in her eyes, looking at a lake with a swan - a kind of modern Leda. On the little side of the bath (60 by 110 cm) I could very well imagine a sunset or a moonset over a calm lake. The painting under the lavatory (60 by 200 cm) could figure a landscape in a thunder-shower. In all these paintings, however, it is very important that you respect accurately the dimensions indicated below in centimeters and inches. […] As I am obliged to finish the apartment before Christmas, it is very important that I get your paintings till November 2nd, 1968." (Letter from Gunter Sachs to Roy Lichtenstein, Paris 3 October 1968, Leo Castelli's gallery records, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)
The result was a set of three enamel panels, exact to-scale reproductions made from Lichtenstein’s working drawings presented in Studies for Leda and the Swan: the large side of the bathtub represented a Picasso-esque version of the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan – in which Zeus materialised as a swan to seduce Leda, Queen of Sparta – while its small end and the plaque for the sink cabinet represented Art Deco-style allegorical imagery in the form of sunshines, rainbows and clouds.
An extraordinarily detailed group of studies for what would later become a consummate example from Roy Lichtenstein’s iconic ‘Modern Paintings’, Studies for Leda and the Swan skilfully demonstrates the artist’s unrivalled grasp on the delicate balance between abstraction and figuration.
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