• Post-War and Contemporary Art  auction at Christies

    Sale 2557

    Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

    8 May 2012, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 16

    Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)

    Anxious Girl (Study)

    Price Realised  

    Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
    Anxious Girl (Study)
    signed with initials 'r.f.l.' (lower right)
    graphite, colored pencil and wax crayon on paper
    5 7/8 x 5 7/8 in. (14.9 x 14.9 cm.)
    Drawn in 1964.


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    This work will be included in the Catalogue Raisonné being prepared by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.


    "Drawing is both the core of his aesthetic and an essential part of the making of his art. It is the point of departure for a new order of painting" -Bernice Rose, curator of The Drawings of Roy Lichtenstein, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1987.

    Anxious Girl (Study) is a drawing that Lichtenstein prepared for one of his most famous paintings, Anxious Girl, painted in 1964. The present lot conveys all the visual and psychological power of its companion work, yet its intimate scale seems to enhance the intensity of the subject's troubled gaze. Conveying a deep sense of anxiety, her piercing blue eyes check her outwardly beautiful appearance defined by her flowing locks of blond hair and floral dress. The contrast between the bold, black lines that define the contours of the girl's hair and face and the ashen nature of the white shading that Lichtenstein applies to her face precisely renders the artist's attempts to understand the graphic language of representation, "I'm only drawing a depiction of the object-a kind of crystallized symbol of it." (R. Lichtenstein, quoted in J. Cowart (ed.), Roy Lichtenstein: Beginning to End, exh. cat., Madrid, 2007, pp. 118-19).
    In Lichtenstein's well-documented art practice, small-scale drawings such as the present work represent the initial stage in an extended process of creating his large-scale paintings. Lichtenstein would use works such as Anxious Girl (Study) to determine the composition and color of his painting, often altering his original source image by telescoping the framing edge and thereby seeming to enlarge the image. These images were then projected onto a large canvas, which Lichtenstein would trace before finally committing the image to paint. However, the drawing was not just used for projection but also as a continuous point of reference throughout the painting process. As Bernice Rose, the curator of Lichtenstein's major drawings retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1987 states, they provided remarkable firsthand evidence of Lichtenstein's artistic process-a process that helped to re-write the established rules of painting that had gone unchallenged for centuries: "They document the consistency of Lichtenstein's style and his development, year by year, almost image by image. The studies also function satisfactorily as miniature drawings in their own right" (B. Rose, The Drawings of Roy Lichtenstein, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1987, p. 29).

    Lichtenstein's use of line and form has rarely been as varied as it has in Anxious Girl (Study). Deftly used to depict the girl's swirling locks, ashen face, and the folds of her dress, the artist's bold contours and subtle shadings are beautifully realized and convey the power and emotion of their subject matter. Although Lichtenstein has always been viewed in the context of the avant-garde, he had strong feelings about being part of a larger tradition of art history. "The big tradition, I think, is unity and I have that in mind; and with that, you know you could break all the other traditions-all the other so-called rules, because they're stylistic...Unity in the work itself depends on unity of the artist's vision...I've never thought of my work as anti-art, because I've always thought it was organized; it's just that I thought it was a different style and therefore a different content as well" (R. Lichtenstein, ibid, p. 15). Anxious Girl (Study) is an example of a work that is both part of a larger dialogue of art history, portraiture, and myth-making, as well as the more contemporary concerns of commodification and popular culture, realized with an astonishing level of mastery.

    Provenance

    Walasse Ting, New York, 1964
    Private collection, by descent
    Acquired from the above by the present owner