• 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 15

    Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)

    Brushstroke

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
    Brushstroke
    signed and dated 'r.f. Lichtenstein 1965' (on the reverse)
    graphite, pochoir, and lithographic rubbing crayon on paper
    22 1/8 x 30 in. (56.2 x 76.2 cm.)
    Drawn in 1965.


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

    Part of Roy Lichtenstein's select group of black-and white drawings, Brushstroke is the first of only two highly finished drawings of brushstrokes that the artist completed during the early part of his career. Resolutely figurative, yet at the same time intriguingly abstract, the bold rendition of the most painterly of gestures is one of Lichtenstein's singularly striking drawings. Its remarkable simplicity combined with its unparalleled graphic quality is the result of the artist's unique investigations into the visual language of representation. Not a study, but a complete work in its own right, Brushstroke joins the canon of the artist's early master drawings executed between 1961 and 1968, which the artist described as drawings "just to be drawings" (R. Lichtenstein quoted in I. Deveraux, "Baked Potatoes, Hot Dogs and Girls' Romances: Roy Lichtenstein's Master Drawings," in Roy Lichtenstein: The Black and White Drawings 1961-68, exh. cat., Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2011, p. 15). The first investigation of this motif, Brushstroke represents Lichtenstein's initial countermove against Abstract Expressionist gestures, in which he affirms his ironic intent in "characterizing or caricaturing a brushstroke. The very nature of a brushstroke is anathema to outlining and filling in as used in cartoons" (R. Lichtenstein, quoted in ibid., p. 180). The only other graphite rendition of this motif, Brushstrokes, 1966-68, is housed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York since 1987.
    Brushstroke is one of the most sophisticated of the artist's black-and-white drawn images. Its bold, dramatic lines and use of iconic Benday dots is far advanced from earlier works such as Airplane and Knock Knock of 1961, whose simple lines lack the subtle touches provided by the Benday dots and the sensuously expressive depictions of paint splashes that distinguish this work. It marks the triumphal culmination of the artist's reductive practice of representing an image in terms of the symbolic language of its formal composition. These visual elements, which mimic the mechanical processes by which strong profiles and volumes are rendered, derive from the advertising and graphic imagery that proliferated during the economic boom of the post-war years. As Bernice Rose, the Curator of Lichtenstein's major drawings retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1987 notes "the early black-and-white drawings form a coherent group, in which Lichtenstein pursues and develops the idea of a graphic style, quite apart from its use in painting" (B. Rose quoted by I. Deveraux, ibid., p. 18).
    Ironically, for such an accomplished drawing, Lichtenstein's first attempts to draw what he saw as the cliché of a brushstroke were not to his liking: "I've made some little sketches," he said "but most of the shapes look like wooden signs rather than brushstrokes, you know how the edges are zigzagged and they've got marks through them which look more like weathered wood" (R. Lichtenstein, quoted by I. Deveraux, ibid., p. 180). He rejected these early attempts at drawing directly from memory in favor of creating a physical brushstroke made with ink or magna on acetate. As Rose describes, he found that the acetate repelled the wet medium, forcing it to "recoil" back into itself and become almost its own imitation, in effect, extending the notion of a copy of a copy to the material itself. He then projected this image onto a canvas, and it was only after he solved the problem on canvas that he was able to draw a brushstroke to his satisfaction.


    Provenance

    Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
    Foundation for Contemporary Performing Art, New York
    Steve Schapiro, New York, 1969
    Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles
    John and Nancy Merryman, Los Angeles, 1974
    Daniel Varenne, Geneva
    Pace Gallery, New York
    Anon. sale; Sotheby's, New York, 2 November 1978, lot 241
    M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York
    Andrew Crispo Gallery, New York
    Anon. sale; Sotheby's, New York, 5 November 1987, lot 122K
    Kohji Ogura Gallery, Nagoya
    Acquired from the above by the present owner


    Literature

    D. Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein: Drawings and Prints, London, 1970, pp. 114-115, no. 65-3 (illustrated).


    Exhibited

    Cleveland Museum of Art, Works by Roy Lichtenstein, November 1966-January 1967.
    New York, New School, American Drawings of the Sixties: A Selection, November 1969-January 1970, p. 9, no. 85.
    Katonah Gallery, American Drawings: The Last Decade, 1971, no. 32. Paris, Centre National d'Art Contemporain, Centre Beaubourg, Roy Lichtenstein: dessins sans bande, January 1975-September 1975.
    Miami, Frances Wolfson Art Gallery, The Spirit of Paper: 20th Century Americans, June-July 1982, no. 24 (illustrated).
    Davenport Art Gallery; Little Rock, Arkansas Art Center; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Art Center; Wichita Falls Museum; Corpis Christi, Art Museum of South Texas; Kansas City, Nelson Atkins Museum of Art; Huntsville Museum of Art; Stillwater, Oklahoma State University, Gardiner Art Gallery; Pueblo, Sangre de Cristo Art Center; Lincoln, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery; Peoria, Lakeview Museum of Arts & Sciences; Salina Art Center; Springfield Art Museum and Lexington, University of Kentucky Art Museum, American Works on Paper: 100 Years of American Art History, December 1983-December 1985, pp. 62 and 109, no. 54 (illustrated in color).
    New York, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Master Drawings of the Twentieth Century, May-June 1998, no. 33.
    New York, Morgan Library and Museum and Vienna, Albertina, Roy Lichtenstein: The Black-and-White Drawings, 1961-1968, September 2010-May 2011, no. 55 (illustrated in color).