NEW YORK, 1 May 2020 – Sotheby’s is pleased to announce that we will offer Roy Lichtenstein’s White Brushstroke I from 1965 as a highlight of our upcoming Contemporary Art Evening Auction in New York, carrying an estimate of $20/30 million.
White Brushstroke I is one of the most striking examples from Lichtenstein’s iconic series of Brushstroke paintings, which comprises 15 canvases executed in 1965-66 that are regarded as pivotal masterworks of the Pop Art movement.
The painting is one of the few Brushstroke canvases remaining in private hands, with eight examples already held in or promised to such museum collections as the Art Institute of Chicago, Kunsthaus Zürich, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, among others.
White Brushstroke I was first exhibited in the historic debut of the Brushstrokes series at Leo Castelli Gallery in New York in November-December 1965. The painting also has featured in numerous museum exhibitions covering Lichtenstein’s career, including: the artist’s early survey at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York in 1969; Roy Lichtenstein, the major traveling retrospective organized by the Guggenheim from 1993–94; and at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and several other preeminent institutions.
Sotheby’s live evening and day auctions of Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern Art, previously scheduled for May, will be held in New York the week of 29 June, pending the lifting of certain restrictions and confirmation from the relevant authorities that we can proceed. Clients and visitors can expect extra precautions to ensure the safety of our employees and visitors, as well as creative opportunities for those wishing to preview our exhibitions and participate in our auctions – from in-person and virtual appointment viewings to enhanced digital experiences. We will announce a more a detailed schedule in due course, including relevant exhibition plans. Our new Online Day Sales of Contemporary and Impressionist & Modern Art will proceed as scheduled in early May.
David Galperin, Head of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auctions in New York, commented: "White Brushstroke I is an icon of Pop Art, capturing in a single painting the rupture that this movement invoked in an entire generation of postwar picture-making. The stark drama of its singular dynamic gesture, set against Lichtenstein's trademark bright blue Ben-Day dots, positions this work as the ultimate embodiment of his Brushstroke series. With his signature wit and graphic verve, Lichtenstein takes on the dominance of the Abstract Expressionists, and challenges the very nature of painting. With its cool, mechanical precision and stunning conceptual depth, Lichtenstein here ushers in the dawn of the Pop Art era. This is Pop at its most profound core."
Lichtenstein’s inspiration for the Brushstroke series originated from a motif drawn from a comic book story titled The Painting, printed in Strange Suspense Stories in October 1964, in which a tortured artist battles a painting that appears to assume a life of its own. Reductive in its simplicity, the work demonstrates the singular significance of the Brushstrokes paintings within his oeuvre, and represents the ultimate embodiment of Lichtenstein’s pioneering investigation into the form, content, and meaning of contemporary art.
Bold, brilliant, and irreverent, White Brushstroke I and the other Brushstroke paintings mark a pivotal moment in Lichtenstein’s career-long consideration of art about art. Here, for the first time, Lichtenstein turns his questioning gaze on the very act of painting itself.
Replacing the popular and commercial imagery which inspired his earlier paintings, Lichtenstein’s Brushstrokes offer wry commentary on the explosive strokes and splatters of such artists as Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Franz Kline, whose action painting had dominated the critical discourse of the preceding decade.