Audio: Roy Lichtenstein, Collage for Nude with Beach Ball
Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
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Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)

Collage for Nude with Beach Ball

Details
Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
Collage for Nude with Beach Ball
signed and dated 'rf Lichtenstein '94' (on the reverse)
printed paper, tape, acrylic and ink collage on board
24¾ x 20 3/8 in. (62.8 x 51.7 cm.)
Executed in 1994.
Provenance
Private collection, gift of the artist
By descent from the above to the present owner
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.
Post lot text
Executed in 1994, this work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonne being prepared by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.

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Emily Woodward
Emily Woodward

Lot Essay

“I see it as a vernacular subject being brought into high art […] the high art of Abstract Expressionism against the low art of what we were doing… I used a vehicle or style that seemed also to be vulgarized […] to make the subject and technique compatible. It was just lucky, because I was actually copying cartoons, which just did it automatically, at the beginning. But [I wanted] to bring it into high art through ordering it, through unifying it, but not changing its appearance very much from what seemed to be commercial.”
-Roy Lichtenstein

Collage for Nude with Beach Ball is a staple of Roy Lichtenstein’s late work in which he introduced the iconic and timeless female
nude. Revered as the originator of Pop Art in America, Lichtenstein turned his attention to the nude in the 1990s while still retaining his use of mass-produced imagery inspired Ben-Day dots and popping bright color. Although Lichtenstein related his process
to contemporary mass media in Nudes with Beach Ball, he also incorporated traditional artistic elements such as chiaroscuro into his
work. Lichtenstein claims: “Large areas of these paintings have dots, graduated in size, which represent chiaroscuro. Other areas have unmodulated color. This inconsistency is rarely seen in painting, but it’s something I’m interested in exploring. That is the art idea I have in mind” (Roy Lichtenstein, Beginning to End, exh. cat., Fundacion Juan Miro, March, 2007, p. 132). The female presence is rendered almost abstract, for the Ben-Day dots break the conventions of chiaroscuro by overlapping and eliminating the fleshly contours of the body to blur the distinction between figure and background. The nude becomes another pattern of shapes lines and colors, just like the sky behind her.

Collage for Nude with Beach Ball is also a celebrated example of Lichtenstein’s use of collage to order and balance his surface. As he
explains: “I do a lot of [collaging] in the paintings. I start something and keep adding to it—putting pieces of paper down temporarily
and looking at the image. Because to do all those graduated dots and dotted areas and diagonal areas and then take them off and
redo the painting is punishing work…it’s just much easier to try it out first in collage to get everything I want” (ibid., p. 126). In a way,
Lichtenstein’s collage works are more complete than his paintings, for they offer insight into the artist’s working method.

The nudes represented in this idealized and enchanting landscape have several interesting sources. On the one hand, they were inspired from a comic strip of two women dressed in bathing suits and jackets on the beach, one holding a beach ball and stating “I
know it’s in my little date book!” From the source image, Lichtenstein sketched a drawing in his sketch book, then a more complete drawing on tracing paper, then a colored drawing on paper, until finally creating his collage. The comic book source suggests Lichtenstein’s interest in reflecting American consumer and social culture in his work. However, he also saw his transference of vernacular subject matter onto canvas as a process of pulling mass-produced imagery into high art. His work thus encapsulates the tension between low Pop imagery and high Abstract Expressionist order. Lichtenstein explains: “I see it as a vernacular subject being
brought into high art […] the high art of Abstract Expressionism against the low art of what we were doing… I used a vehicle or style that seemed also to be vulgarized […] to make the subject and technique compatible. It was just lucky, because I was actually copying cartoons, which just did it automatically, at the beginning. But [I wanted] to bring it into high art through ordering it, through unifying it, but not changing its appearance very much from what seemed to be commercial” (op. cit., p. 118).

Like Pablo Picasso before him, Lichtenstein continues the tradition of immortalizing the woman. Like both Picasso and Matisse,
Lichtenstein’s captivation with the painter-model relationship reaches a new level of familiarity and sensuality in Collage for Nude with Beach Ball, combined with the formal concerns for his painting. And like Andy Warhol, Lichtenstein is able to capture the tension between the personal and the impersonal in his work.

Like Willem de Kooning’s Women, Lichtenstein’s Collage for Nude with Beach Ball present the female figure in an original and provocative manner. In this emblematic example of a Lichtenstein figurative work, the noble nude has been rendered as erotic graphic flesh, and her large schematic body is offered as an object of desire, yet she experiences desire as well, here captured in a state of reverie or bliss.

Lichtenstein’s iconic work pleases the eye with vivid color and clever wit yet also offers thought-provoking messages and questions
about Pop and American culture. Lichtenstein is rightly recognized as a fixture in the Modern Art canon, and Nudes with Beach Ball encompasses the subject matter and formal elements that brought him to fame.

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