Marvin Ross Friedman & Co. Miami
Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., New York
Hope and Howard Stringer, Nashville
Guggenheim, Asher Associates, New York
Richard Gray Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2007
Venice, Biennale di Venezia XLI, Art in the Mirror, June - July 1984
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Picasso and American Art, September 2006 - September 2007, p. 272, no. 139, illustrated in colour
Paris, Grand Palais Galeries Nationales, Picasso: Mania, October 2015 - February 2016, p. 168, no. 149, illustrated in colour
Exh. Cat., London, Tate Modern (and travelling), Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective, May 2012 - November 2013, p. 41 (text)
Lichtenstein’s inaugural painting after Picasso came very early in his career and was included in the artist’s breakthrough exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery in February-March of 1962. This exhibition caused a substantial degree of ambivalence from critics owing to Lichtenstein’s ‘copyist’ methods, particularly his apparent attempt at supplanting the master of modern painting. However as curator Ira Candela has explained, these early critics failed to register Lichtenstein’s announcement of the death of the author: “As Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault would soon argue, there is no such thing as an original text, for every work is a complex combination of previous ideas, a polysemic discourse without a single author… one could argue that Lichtenstein’s Picassos force the viewer to abandon outdated questions like Who paints? and With what originality?” (Ira Candela, ibid., 40). Lichtenstein’s artistic endeavour was far from new. It was Picasso’s own borrowing – such as his recapitulation of Eugène Delacroix’s Women of Algers in Their Apartment (1834) for his own Femme d’Alger (1955) – that first impelled Lichtenstein to so the same. Picasso was often explicit in his irreverence and parody of Old Master paragons; his late work in particular is known for its cannibalistic consumption of masters such as Velazquez, Rembrandt, and El Greco. Taking on the age-old mantle of influence and deviation as Picasso had done before him, the Pop art pioneer affirmed the primacy of artistic discourse in opposition to the singular originality of a lone author from the very outset.
When considering Lichtenstein’s method, it is clear that his works after Picasso are just as much about their means of production as they are about the modernist painter. Indeed, a further deviation that separates Lichtenstein’s work from Picasso is his borrowing from cheap mechanical reproductions with distorted colour values. In works such as Still Life after Picasso (1964) Lichtenstein replicated a mechanical simulacrum of a Picasso rather than its original source, and in doing so, foregrounds the attendant fetishism and mystification endemic within commercial replications of venerated artworks. Furthermore, Lichtenstein’s masterful yet most deceptive transgression remains his faking of the industrial. Though his appropriative riff on Picasso takes on the production values of the mechanically produced – the half-tone dots and flat primary colours – they are painstakingly worked over by hand.
Into the 1970s Lichtenstein continued to engage Picasso; however, the works created in this decade exhibit a different manner that moved away from a working ‘after’ and more towards a working ‘with’ (Ibid.). In paintings such as Still Life with Picasso (1973) Lichtenstein blends his own compositional elements with those borrowed from Picasso’s oeuvre to playfully embark upon a free form dialogue with the revered Spanish master. Furthermore, the series of Artist’s Studios created between 1973-74 imparted another layer of complexity to this genre of metapainting. Taking on the tradition of genre painting, Lichtenstein began referring to his own back catalogue and melding it with other famous painterly icons. For example the early masterpiece Look Mickey (1961) appears above a sofa in furnished domestic interior in Artist’s Studio “Look Mickey” from 1973, while Matisse’s The Dance forms the backdrop of a still life scene of paintbrushes and lemons in Artist’s Studio “The Dance” of 1974. With the onset of the 1980s this dialogue entered yet another phase. As exemplified by the present work, during this decade Lichtenstein began painting closely cropped imaginary spaces in which artworks intermingle and coexist side by side. In Two Paintings with Dado, the top section of Lichtenstein’s 1963 work after Picasso, Woman with Flowered Hat, appears below a Johns flagstone painting. That both paintings are framed and positioned below and above a dado rail suggests that they form part of an imagined installation. In the present work, and many from this reflective moment in Lichtenstein’s oeuvre, the pioneering Pop artist has not simply painted any old exhibition view – he has painted his very own retrospective.