- Roy Lichtenstein
- enamel on metal
Acquired directly from the artist in 1969
Hamburg, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Gunter Sachs - Retrospektive, 2003, n.p., illustrated in colour
Leipzig, Museum der Bildenden Künste, Gunter Sachs, 2008
Composition, 1969, is a unique example of Roy Lichtenstein's celebrated 'Modern Painting' series. Created as a special commission for Gunter Sachs' legendary Pop Art apartment in St. Moritz, Composition is at once striking, subtle, humorous and seductive. This monumental enamel on metal was created as a bespoke artwork to accompany Gunter Sachs' bedroom suite. Combining aspects from Lichtenstein's 'Art Deco' and 'Modern Paintings' series, the present work is packed with visual references to Lichtenstein's past works. His Sunrise series from 1965 is represented by the radiant sun in the left section of the painting, and again repeated on the right side of the mid-section. At the centre a Moonscape style banner separates the two sides which are interspersed with his signature black Ben-Day dots. Composition is a rare example of Lichtenstein's unique commissions of the 1960s, consisting of an exhilarating blend of iconic symbols combined with Lichtenstein's unique style and deep appreciation of art history to generate a work that is both visually and intellectually challenging.
One of the defining works in Gunter Sachs' St. Moritz bedroom, Composition was created as a personalised panel for his sink cabinet in combination with Lichtenstein's Leda and the Swan that served as a side piece for Sachs' infamous bathtub overlooking the mountain vista. Both works were commissioned together as quintessential Pop Art accompaniments to his Allen Jones furniture and Fahri Perspex wall panels and sculptures. Following the catastrophic fire at Badrutt's Palace in St. Moritz in 1967, Gunter Sachs generously offered to support his friends Andrea and Hansjürg Badrutt in financing the restoration and refurbishments of the tower in exchange for the long lease of the penthouse apartment. Genuinely avant-garde in his vision, Gunter Sachs set about creating an unprecedented new artistic milieu. This notorious penthouse apartment in the tower of the Badrutt's Palace Hotel in St. Moritz signified a culmination of Gunter Sachs' passionate and extensive art collection. As a bon vivant and close friend of contemporary artists from Andy Warhol to Salvador Dali, his eclectic taste and perspicacity lent him the confidence to commission and create this celebrated Pop Art environment. The majority of the apartment commissioned and acquired directly from his artist friends, combined to create this unique apartment, the quintessence of Sachs' innate artistic sensitivity and style.
Lichtenstein, alongside Warhol, sought a pictorial vocabulary embedded in modes of mechanical reproduction. However, unlike Warhol, who pioneered the silkscreen process to transfer his images to canvas, Lichtenstein set out by magnifying and transferring his sketches by hand in a painstaking process that insistently removed all the expressionistic detail of brushwork, further divesting the image of naturalistic representation. Composition, based on Collage for Leda and the Swan, 1968, is a consummate example of Lichtenstein's Modern Paintings series and of this technique of reproduction. Lichtenstein's imagery, which stylistically owes so much to advertising and publishing, offers a configuration of his symbolism into a bold and confident superreality. As seen in the present work, Lichtenstein's shorthand images of sunshine and rainbows take on an innovative authority, they become classic. In this way they invade our minds and allow us to relate each element to those in our own worlds and create our own interpretation.
Like its subject matter, a graphic contrast of reflected forms and of Art Deco allegory, Composition is a painting that plays on the edge of abstraction and figuration. Lichtenstein has removed any aspect that can be a readily identifiable object in order to evoke an opus that is completely timeless. It is a configuration of lines, dots and bright colour, distance, shape and strong forms. Composition owes its vivid monumentality to the careful scrutiny and distillation of essentially abstract colours, shapes and forms. Lichtenstein then adapts his sources to present Composition with ultimate clarity. As Lichtenstein played down the idiosyncrasy of the artist's hand in favour of uninflected surfaces that replicate the look of the machine-made, we are compelled to venerate the movement and melody within this picture's unique composition.