Lot 121
  • 121

James Rosenquist

600,000 - 800,000 USD
735,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • James Rosenquist
  • Screen Test
  • signed on the overlap
  • oil on canvas


Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Private Collection, New York
Jan Krugier Gallery, New York
Max Lang Gallery, New York and James Goodman Gallery, New York (acquired from the above in January 2005)
Private Collection
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Los Angeles, Margo Leavin Gallery, James Rosenquist: Paintings, December 1975 - January 1976
Salzburg, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac; Paris, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Ensemble Moderne: Das Moderne Stilleben, July - October 1998, cat. no. 104, pp. 128-129 and 189, illustrated


Constance Lewallen, "Rosenquist's New York," Artweek 7, No. 2, 10 January 1976, pp. 1 and 16

Catalogue Note

Screen Test from 1975 is a classic example of James Rosenquist's punchy Pop style. A leading figure of American Pop art in the early 1960s, Rosenquist developed a distinctive voice within the burgeoning movement that revolutionized 20th century art. The artist began his career as a painter of large advertisements and posters in Minnesota. Lured by the promises of the big city and the opportunity to study at the Art Students League, Rosenquist came to New York in 1955. However, his growing disillusionment with academic sensibilities led him to eschew a formal education and in 1957 he found himself once again painting billboards. Perched on his ladder, high above Times Square, Rosenquist was not only able to develop a uniquely bold and compelling style, but also to absorb the wafting fumes of capitalism in the commercial epicenter of the Western world. Absorbing the myriad schools of thought on art production in New York in the 1960s, Rosenquist launched his career in earnest and struck out towards a new, quintessentially American style of painting and expression.

Screen Test is a vibrant example of that style. Portrayed on billboard scale, Rosenquist's Hollywood starlet preens for the camera from behind her stylish shades. As the viewer, we are invited to sit in the director's chair, and determine her casting. It is a moment of anticipation, excitement and uncertainty. The magnified intensity of every element is mesmerizing, creating an overwhelming sense of a specific moment within a wider narrative. This evocation of intrigue, of a story half-portrayed, is typical of Rosenquist who wanted to create, "a new kind of mysterious painting" (the artist quoted in Exh. Cat., London, Haunch of Venison, James Rosenquist, 2006, p. 108).The artist’s synthesis of eclectic stylistic precedents is abundantly evident in this work. We might notice the influence of Roy Lichtenstein in the portrayal of a narrative fragment, and the graphic, almost cartoonish, style of Robert Rauschenberg and Richard Hamilton. For Rosenquist, unlike other titans of Pop art, handpainting continued to be an integral part of his practice throughout his career. As Walter Hopps notes, “Another factor that sets Rosenquist apart from the other Pop artists is the degree to which he has relied on handpainting. He has rarely used any mechanical means—the stencils or silkscreening that Lichtenstein and Warhol favored. He is a superb painter in a very traditional sense, producing very untraditional images” (Walter Hopps, “Connoisseur of the Inexplicable” in Exh. Cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (and traveling), James Rosenquist: A Retrospective, 2003-2004, p. 8). Furthermore, Rosenquist’s training as a billboard painter—which in turn became his trademark as an artist—is evident in his graphic approximation of figurative details: the starlet's bright-blue eye is perfectly illustrated behind the lens of her glasses, only to morph into a silver expanse that creates a wonderful collage-like effect, and suggests the 'silver screen.' This punchy mode of depiction gives the work that sense of instant impact that is surely derived from advertising images. 

In 1971, Rosenquist, his wife, and their son were injured badly in a tragic car crash, but by 1975 the artist emerged from the other side of this life-threatening collision. “After the ’71 car accident, Rosenquist recounted the sense of fragmentation and flurries of color that rushed through his mind in that moment” (Exh. Cat., New York, Richard L. Feigen & Co., James Rosenquist, 2014).  This sense of fragmentation, whirls of color and renewed sense of confidence floods Screen Test.