Lot 117
  • 117

Roy Lichtenstein

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
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  • Roy Lichtenstein
  • Modern Painting
  • signed and dated 67 on the reverse
  • oil and magna on canvas
  • 40.6 by 40.6 cm. 16 by 16 in.


Lawrence Levine, New York
James Goodman Gallery, New York
James Shelton Jr., Texas
Private Collection
Spanierman Gallery, New York
Private Collection (acquired from the above in 2006)
Sotheby's, London, 11 February 2010, Lot 231
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Please refer to the Contemporary Art Department for a professional condition report.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The present work exemplifies Roy Lichtenstein’s take on constructivist principles, which become transformed by the Pop quality of his signature Benday dots and stark, cartoonish outlines. Furthering the aesthetic of his trademark comic book paintings, Lichtenstein's Modern Paintings series seek to highlight the way in which scope, position, colour, physicality of paint and sensory qualities are routinely lost through mass reproduction; which smoothes over what makes a painting unique and moving. Through his reductive visual language, Lichtenstein’s embrace of new technologies and materials and its preference for revolutionary rather than evolutionary design are flattened into anonymous shapes with a purely symbolic role. Glistening brass surfaces and ornate industrial details become flat planes of vibrant yellow, blue and white, all delineated against a buzzing backdrop of Benday dots that achieves a new level of technical proficiency. Layered on one top of the other, the individual forms, patterns and colours of the composition coexist in visual harmony creating an illusion of volume and space beyond the confines of the densely packed canvas.  Begun the year of his first major retrospective, the Modern Paintings series signaled an important departure for Lichtenstein that was to influence the course and the evolution of his mature career over the next 20 years. Whereas his 'Comic' and 'Brushstroke' paintings of the early 1960s took their subjects and inspiration from the prevailing high and low art forms of the decade in which they were painted, in the Modern Paintings, Lichtenstein began what was to become a lifelong retrospective engagement with art of the past; specifically in this series with Art Deco and its self-consciously "Modern" aesthetic of the 1930s.

Compositionally, the Modern Paintings series allowed Lichtenstein greater creative freedom to fully explore the possibilities of his painting style than had been possible in the comic and brushstroke paintings. It also gave him the confidence to put forward the argument for style over content, echoing Marshall McLuhan's creed that 'the medium is the message'. "These paintings take the populist, commercial style of the 1930's – the Art Deco of ocean liners, theatre foyers and enamelled jewellery – as a source of form in opposition to the simplified lines of more respected design... Right-angled but garrulous, abstract but frantically playful, these paintings catch without qualms the heavy design sense of the period. These tightly locked geometrics were, as the artist has pointed out, originally emblems of the future. However, enough time has passed for us to be overwhelmed by a sense of these forms' remoteness. There is a poignant sense of time as we look at the symbolic geometry that derives from a decade in which, to quote Lichtenstein, 'they felt much more modern than we feel we are now" (Lawrence Alloway, Roy Lichtenstein, New York 1983, p. 40).