Collage for Painting in Gold Frame is a rare example of Roy Lichtenstein's collages. In an interview shortly before his death in 1997, he explained how he used collage as a flexible working method that allowed easy manipulation: "I start with a sketch in mind and try to do something like that. But as it develops I can see that it could use something more daring in the colour over here, or this could be pushed a little bit up there, and maybe the sizes of the areas aren't right. So, I can easily make changes. I like to be able to manipulate all of this, but I like it to look as though it was never changed, that that's just the way it was, that you guessed right the first time" (Lichtenstein quoted in Some Kind of Reality: Roy Lichtenstein Interviewed by David Sylvester, London 1997, p. 37). Despite their instrumental purpose, Lichtenstein's collages are ambiguous in their nature. He created the present work as a maquette for a print. In signing it, however, he made it clear that he viewed it as a complete work, rather than as an intermediary step towards a larger project.
Lichtenstein first used the brushstroke motif in the mid-1960s, when it was interpreted as a parody and deconstruction of the bravura gestures of the Abstract Expressionists. His brushstrokes were anything but spontaneous: they were executed with great care and calculation (he made a real brushstroke on acetate, which he then copied on the canvas). Lichtenstein aimed to subvert the notion of the brushstroke as the ultimate manifestation of the artist's soul. He revived this motif in the 1980s, particularly in a group of paintings that challenge our visual perception: Two Paintings: Radiator and Folded Sheets (1983), and Paintings: Mirror, (1984). In a similar vein, Collage for Painting in Gold Frame skillfully creates its own visual tension: between the two-dimensional brushstroke painting and its frame, which, with its gold-foil application, perpetuates an illusion of three-dimensional space.