• Post-War & Contemporary Mornin auction at Christies

    Sale 2220

    Post-War & Contemporary Morning Session

    11 November 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 156

    Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)

    Setting Sun and Sea

    Price Realised  


    Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
    Setting Sun and Sea
    signed, numbered and dated 'rf Lichtenstein 1/5 1964' (on the reverse)
    enamel on steel
    36 x 72 x 1¾ in. (91.4 x 182.8 x 4.4 cm.)
    Executed in 1964. This work is number one from an edition of five.

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    Roy Lichtenstein's body of work posits a singular challenge, that is: the endeavor of constructing pictures that call their own construction into question. To see Lichtenstein's oeuvre in retrospect is to see his novel solutions re-iterating themselves in a myriad variety of forms and means, with his landscape series being one of the most sophisticated approaches to this problem.

    The exemplar Setting Sun and Sea, is best understood in the context in which it was first publicly received: at Lichtenstein's third solo exhibition at Castelli gallery in October 1964. Preceding this exhibition, Lichtenstein had worked on a painting series that isolated the onomonopaeic sound effects from the comic-strip narrative. Works like "Varoom" and "Wham" (1963) highlighted the absurdity and arbitrariness of representing an amorphous phenomena, as in his painted and constructed Explosions.

    "There is something humorous about doing a sunset in a solidified way, especially the rays, because a sunset has little or no specific form. It is like the explosionsThey may have [had] some kind of form at any particular moment, but they are never really perceived as defined shape it makes something ephemeral completely concrete" (Roy Lichtenstein, cited in exh. cat., Pasadena Art Museum, Roy Lichtenstein, 1967, p. 15).

    Lawrence Alloway has posited that "Lichtenstein's subject is the artificiality of communication; the discrepancy between signifier and referent." and as subjects, his Landscapes were an eloquent means of discussing and demonstrating this (Lawrence Alloway, Roy Lichtenstein, p. 34). His sources were comic book sunsets; the ones that signal a hero's departure 'into the sunset', or the hyper-stylized paintings and post-cards of Americana. He would copy the sources directly and enlarge them, exaggerating already extant qualities of "stereotypical" landscapes, to serve as a reminder of pictorial representation's failure to overcome a mere imitation of reality.

    Using a seductive palette of navy blue and white, and reducing a sea-side sunset into solid, reproducible shapes, in Setting Sun and Sea, Lichtenstein imitates the single-process printing of newsprint, imitating the imitation by ape-ing its mechanized processes and mode of production. The formal components of Setting Sun and Sea,, the largest in scale and one of the more radically abstracted of the landscape series, are an exemplary means of demonstrating Lichtenstein's hypothesis. Setting Sun and Sea, reduces nature to stylized geometry, making a tongue in cheek art-deco reference, and acting as a precursor to Lichtenstein's "Modern" paintings.


    Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
    Pletopolcina Arte Moderna, Rome
    Private collection
    Anon. sale; Sotheby's, New York, 15 May 1998, lot 143


    D. Judd, "In the Galleries: Roy Lichtenstein," Arts Magazine, December 1964, p. 66 (illustrated).
    C. Brown, "A Barbeque in the Shrine?," The Washington Post, 6 December 1964, p. G13.
    J. Johnston, "Roy Lichtenstein" ArtNews, December 1964 p. 15 (illustrated).
    B. Alfieri, "La situazione dell'arte/The Arts Condition--'Pop' ugale 'non popolare'/'Pop' means 'not popular'," Metro, 1965, p. 5 (illustrated).
    "Roy Lichtenstein," Studio International, January 1968, p. 27 (illustrated).
    P. Braff, "Social Issues of the 90's and Icons of the 60's: 'Pop Art'," The New York Times, 13 June 1999, p. 23 (illustrated).


    New York, Leo Castelli Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein: Landscapes, October-November 1964.
    Detroit Institute of Arts, Friends of Modern Art Exhibition, 1969.
    New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Kansas City, William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art & Atkins Museum of Fine Arts; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Seattle Art Museum; Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, Roy Lichtenstein, September 1969-August 1970, p. 84, pl. 88 (illustrated, another example exhibited).
    East Hamtpon, Vered Gallery, June 1999 (another example exhibited).