This monumental porcelain enamel work was envisioned as a bespoke artwork to outfit Sachs’ bedroom suite where it was installed below his bathroom sink for decades and was paired with Lichtenstein’s Leda and the Swan, which surrounded the large soaking tub overlooking the breathtaking mountain views of the Swiss Alps. Lichtenstein developed the present work with the help of Sachs’ pointed artistic vision. In keeping with the cosmopolitan playboy’s true passion for living among great works of art and sharing them with the many friends and family who had the pleasure of visiting his penthouse in the Palace Hotel where this work was a focal-point of his home. Following the devastating 1967 fire at Badrutt’s Palace in St. Mortiz, Sachs generously offered to support his friends Andrea and Hansjürg Badrutt in financing the restoration and refurbishments of the tower in exchange for an extended lease of the expansive penthouse apartment. Genuinely avant-garde in his vision, Sachs set about creating an unprecedented new artistic milieu in which he would live and entertain for years. This notorious penthouse apartment signified a culmination of Sachs' passionate and extensive art collection. Composition and Leda and the Swan were commissioned as quintessential Pop Art accompaniments to Sachs’ Allen Jones furniture and Fahri Perspex wall panels and sculptures. As a bon vivant and close friend of contemporary artists among the likes of Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali, his eclectic taste and perspicacity lent him the confidence to commission and create this celebrated Pop Art environment.
In creating Composition, Lichtenstein drew inspiration from his previous works by combining aspects from his Modern Paintings and Art Deco series. Through his chosen material, Lichtenstein played down the idiosyncrasy of the artist’s hand in favor of uninflected surfaces that replicate the look of the machine-made further venerating the movement and melody within the present work’s unique horizontal composition. The radiant yellow sun rising to the left references the artist’s 1965 Sunrise series, also explored in enamel, and is again repeated to the right of the blue Moonscape style banner. The work is playfully interspersed with his signature black Ben-Day dots, which are meticulously executed, instilling the work with a kinetic dynamism that in turn invests a powerful sense of tension between the defined rays of rising sun and the curled wisps of green foliage. Diane Waldman explained, “I think Lichtenstein believed that simplicity was art. He believed very much in the rational and logical. To me there is something humorous in being that logical and rational about a work of art—using a diagonal that goes from one corner of the picture to another and using arcs that have their midpoint at the edge of the picture. All these are very logical things: dividing pictures into halves or thirds, or repeating images three times or five times. They used these formulas because they thought that if they did it would be art. Actually, it can be. There are two things here: the naïve quality of believing that logic would make art, and the possibility that it could” (Diane Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, New York 1993, p. 169).
Through his porcelain enamel on steel paintings, Lichtenstein harnessed the undercurrent of mass reproduction central to his earlier comic book works by utilizing their very modes of mechanical reproduction. By doing so, Lichtenstein revolutionized how we perceive the world around us and how, in turn, the world has subsequently been presented back unto itself. Rendering the present work on an enamel plate added a further layer of complexity to the readymade nature of Lichtenstein’s most recognizable images once again removing the artist’s own hand. Waldman explains, “With enamel, Lichtenstein accomplished two objectives: he reinforced the look of mechanical perfection that paint could only simulate but not duplicate and it provided the perfect opportunity to make an ephemeral form concrete” (Diane Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, New York 1971, p. 23). Composition is an incredibly rare, unique example both materially and stylistically as it is one of only three unique porcelain enamel works created by the artist- further heightening the importance of this fortuitous commission between two visionaries in their respective fields.
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