Painted in 1983, this work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné being prepared by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.
Dave Hickey wrote, "Like Andy Warhol's Soup Cans, Lichtenstein's brushstrokes were, clearly and at first glance, generational icons. They proposed a critique of the immediate past, clearly intending to supersede it without destroying it - to propose something new that would renew the past" (D. Hickey, Roy Lichtenstein Brushstrokes: Four Decades, New York, 2001, p. 11).
Both brushstrokes and mirror motifs are important themes in Lichtenstein's oeuvre. Their complicity in Painting: Silver Frame brilliantly exemplifies Lichtenstein's satirical character. Although the Brushstroke paintings were informed by Abstract Expressionism, their sources are more varied. They are more than superficial parodies of abstract paintings; they are about issues in Lichtenstein's art. The starting point was a comic strip; one of the artist's first Brushstroke paintings was a direct reference to a frame from the comic book which included a story titled "The Painting," a horror story from Charlton Comics' Strange Suspense Stories, no. 72 (October 1964). Here, the cartoonist shows an oversized brush and two large overlapping strokes of paint; it is from this comic strip image that Lichtenstein developed the ideas for the Brushstroke series.
Lichtenstein also acknowledged a debt to the painterly school of Renaissance art in inspiring the Brushstroke series. The extravagant and exaggerated brushwork of the 17th century artists, in particular those of the Dutch portraitist Frans Hals, are precursors to the assertive brushstrokes of action painting. In the works of both Hals and the Abstract Expressionists, the spontaneous gesture appears to be an end in and of itself. It is from these rich sources that Lichtenstein culls his inspiration for Painting: Silver Frame.
In Painting: Silver Frame, Lichtenstein takes the signature of Abstract Expressionism - the bravura brushstroke - and frames it within the Pop idiom. The fact that the brushstrokes are superimposed on the image of a mirror reinforces the farce on traditional painting. The miror does not fulfill any of its traditional roles as a mirror. There is no play of light, and most importantly, there is no reflection. While we recognize the object conceptually, all other signifiers are negated. Pictorially and conceptually, Painting: Silver Frame is an important execution of Lichtenstein's most essential hallmarks.