Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more
Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)

Sleeping Girl (Study)

Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
Sleeping Girl (Study)
graphite and colored pencils on paper
5¾ x 5¾ in. (14.6 x 14.6 cm.)
Executed in 1964.
Collection of Jack Klein, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
P. Bianchini, Roy Lichtenstein Drawings & Prints, p. 143, no. 64-11 (illustrated in color).
New York, James Goodman Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein, A Drawing Retrospective, April-May 1984, no. 8 (illustrated in color).
New York, Museum of Modern Art, The Drawings of Roy Lichtenstein, March-June 1987, pp. 75, 186 and 200, no. 46 (illustrated in color).
New York, James Goodman Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein Works on Paper: A Retrospective, November-December 2006, pp. 7 and 25, no. 6 (illustrated in color).
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Lot Essay

The lot will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné being prepared by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.

Sleeping Girl (Study) is a remarkable drawing that belongs to Roy Lichtenstein's most celebrated series--his iconic portraits of women that he painted in the 1960s. Taken from the pages of romantic comic books, these women helped to define the age of Pop art and reflected the artist's formal interest in both the nature of representation and the cultural dichotomy that exists between male and female stereotypes. Distinguished by the flowing locks of golden hair that fall gently across her face, this work is made of the bold lines and vivid coloring that Lichtenstein took from these supermarket pulp fiction novels. The subject in Sleeping Girl (Study) is apparently slumbering, yet a distinct sense of anxiety creeps across her face but her distress has been markedly tamed when compared to the picture's source image. This stunning blonde was appropriated from the work of Tony Abruzzo, a graphic artist who made several appearances in DC comics' Falling in Love and Girls' Love Stories, amongst others. Abruzzo's drawings were amongst Lichtenstein's favorite images to plunder and their adaptations rank amongst the Pop artist's most important paintings. The compositions of Drowning Girl, 1963 (Museum of Modern Art, New York), Hopeless, 1963 (Kunstmuseum Basel), M-Maybe, 1965 (Museum Ludwig, Cologne), and Blonde Waiting, 1964 (Private Collection) have all been attributed to love stories illustrated by Abruzzo. Like these paintings, Sleeping Girl (Study) is based on a moment of narrative suspense where the heroine is suffering in one way or another from the unseen object of her affections. But whereas the former works preserve the tear-streaked eyes, suspenseful waiting and exclamations of despair or anxiety seen in the source comics, Lichtenstein has subtly altered the content of Sleeping Girl (Study) to create an entirely new interpretation of its subject.

This work replicates the filmic close-up view of the woman and the essential elements of her face but Lichtenstein has removed the hand that once reached up to her temple in a gesture of distress and has, most importantly, eliminated the tear from her eye. These slight adjustments to the graphic formulae mean she is no longer represented in a state of emotional agony. She is not a figure of empathy any more, but has become an object of beauty, instilled with a blatant but subdued eroticism. Lichtenstein has deftly elevated her from victim to muse, and with her luscious blonde locks and full red lips, she is truly the epitome of an all-American goddess. The title of the work places her in the boudoir and we are granted an extremely intimate, almost voyeuristic view of her face through a parted curtain of hair. Indeed, the figure's abundant hair is the most extensively worked element of Sleeping Girl (Study). It appears alive and expressive, compared to the figure's static face, as it flows outwards towards the viewer. The game of spot-the-difference between this painting and the original image reveal another small but vital change to the composition. Lichtenstein has not only removed the white 'light reflection' tints to the figure's hair, making it an overall, flat yellow, but has also extended this color to fill the corners of the frame. This serves to remove any sense of spatial depth--the painting is all foreground, no middle--or background exist. This disembodied head is divorced from her environment and we are deprived of her gaze, making an image surface that is entirely unyielding.

These small-scale drawings are not sketches or studies in the traditional art historical sense, but rather they act as the initial stage in a process that resulted in his large-scale paintings. Lichtenstein would use works such as Sleeping Girl (Study) to determine the composition and color of his painting, often cropping or slightly altering his original source image and bringing in the framing edge thereby seemingly enlarging the image. These images were then projected onto a large canvas, which Lichtenstein would then 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 (an exhibition which included the present work) 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, "Theydocument 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).

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, quoted by B. Rose, ibid., p. 29). Sleeping Girl (Stud) is an example of a work that is both part of a larger dialogue of art history, of portraiture and mythology, as well as the more contemporary concerns of commodification and popular culture, realized with an astonishing level of assurance and beauty.

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