• Post War and Contemporary Art  auction at Christies

    Sale 7834

    Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction

    11 February 2010, London, King Street

  • Lot 18

    Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)

    Collage for New York State Mural (Town and Country)

    Price Realised  

    Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
    Collage for New York State Mural (Town and Country)
    signed and dated 'rf Lichtenstein '68' (lower right)
    gouache, ink, pentel pen, pencil and printed and painted paper collage on card
    31 7/8 x 24in. (81 x 61cm.)
    Executed in 1968


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    With its swirling montage of Art Deco motifs and its bright pop colours, Collage for New York State Mural (Town and Country) represents Roy Lichtenstein's celebratory tribute to the modern age. Executed in 1968, this gouache and collage work was created at the height of Lichtenstein's Modern Painting series in which he focussed on the hard-edged imagery and decorative styling of the interwar years. Originally conceived for a proposed large-scale mural for Nelson D. Rockefeller's Empire State Plaza Art Commission, this work draws on the ornamental features of New York's architectural icons and the design elements that found their way onto almost every aspect of material culture. The systematic framework provided by this form of art presages Lichtenstein's growing interest in the possibilities for layering, compartmentalizing and breaking up the picture plane, a method that lent itself towards an experimentation with collage. As the title suggests, Collage for New York State Mural (Town and Country) brings together aspects of rural and urban life in its fractured composition, where the geometry of city buildings is met with glimpses of sea, trees and sky. Its tightly interlocking forms speak of utopian visions and American idealism, of progress and prosperity.

    Lichtenstein's open appropriation and adaptation of the stepped forms, circles and undulating lines that were popularized during his youth, seems to suggest a certain amount of nostalgia in his application of this style. Yet Lichtenstein's carefully integrated imagery always demonstrates an overriding concern with the way a painting is constructed, rather than its emotional content. In his hands, the optimistic sunburst, the oceanliner smokestack and architectural entablature in Collage for New York State Mural (Town and Country) operate simply as representatives of an immediately recognisable visual vocabulary. Much like Lichtenstein's linear reinventions of renowned Cubist paintings in the early 1960s, this dynamic composition deliberately conveys the fact that every kind of image comes to us packaged with stylistic characteristics that inexorably turn into conventions.

    In many ways, Lichtenstein's interest in this period style can be seen as an expansion upon his self-conscious referencing of artist's like Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger and Piet Mondrian. Describing Art Deco as 'Cubism for the home', he was drawn to the theme primarily as he saw it as a decorative and commercial corruption of the high-minded ambitions attributed to Modernist abstraction. Coupled with the artist's characteristic Benday dots and bold comic outlines, the jubilant Deco symbolism of Collage for New York State Mural (Town and Country) therefore presents a playful Pop dig at the art and artists that have come to form an inextricable part of mass consumer culture.

    Special Notice

    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 17.5% on the buyer's premium.


    Provenance

    Les Editions des Massons SA, Lausanne.
    Galerie Beyeler, Basel.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1973.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE SWISS COLLECTION


    Literature

    P. Bianchini, Roy Lichtenstein: Drawings and Prints, New York 1969, no. 68-1 (illustrated, p. 122).
    Roy Lichtenstein: dessins sans bande, exh. cat., Paris, Centre National d'Art Contemporain, 1975 (illustrated, p. 46).
    Report on Miniaturization, Roy Lichtenstein: Times Square Mural, exh. cat., New York, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, 2002 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).


    Exhibited

    Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Roy Lichtenstein, June-September 1973, no. 13 (illustrated in colour, on the cover).
    Solothurn, Museum der Stadt Solothurn, Aspekte aus neueren Solothurner Sammlungen. 125 Jahre Solothurner Kunstverein, September-November 1975, no. 9 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).