MAGNIFICENT GESTURES: MASTERWORKS FROM THE DIAMONSTEIN-SPIELVOGEL COLLECTION FULL PROCEEDS TO BENEFIT A NOT-FOR-PROFIT CHARITABLE FOUNDATION
'The White Tree' (Study) depicts a classical and pastoral scene of bathers idling in the landscape. In a composition that recalls Paul Cézanne’s The Bathers, figures and trees build up an environment around a central focal point, in this case, a small white tree. Mountains, trees, ground and sky are alternately represented either in dense, angular passages of unmodulated color or precisely drawn hatch marks. Lichtenstein’s emphasis on the illusionistic and artificial nature of this image is part of a larger discourse surrounding the authenticity, or expectation of authenticity in art. This drawing would become the source material for its descendent painting, which remains quite faithful to the present work. Although Lichtenstein slightly altered small passages, for example in not rendering the farthest right figure in all hatching, overall he adhered quite closely to the drawing. In an interview with the present owner, Lichtenstein emphasized the significance of drawing to his output: “Usually, I do these little colored pencil drawings. It would be very rare, and the subject matter would have to be extremely simple, if I didn’t start with a drawing. I think I not only start with a drawing, I draw all the way through the painting.” (Roy Lichtenstein quoted in Barbaralee Diamonstein, Inside the Art World: Conversations with Barbaralee Diamonstein, New York, 1994, p. 163)
Lichtenstein’s engagement with critical moments of the twentieth-century art historical canon was an exercise through which the artist was able to examine specific movements in his own unique style. The present work is a testament to Lichtenstein’s commitment to drawing as a medium and crucial part within his overall artistic practice.
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