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Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
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Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)

Sleeping Girl (Study)

Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
Sleeping Girl (Study)
graphite and colored pencil on paper
5 3/4 x 5 3/4 in. (14.7 x 14.7 cm.)
Drawn in 1964.
Jack Klein collection, New York
James and Katherine Goodman collection, New York
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 12 November 2013, lot 25
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
D. Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein: Drawings and Prints, London, 1970, p. 143, no. 64 -11 (illustrated in color).
Paris, Centre national d'art contemporain, Roy Lichtenstein: Dessins sans Bande, January-February 1975, pp. 30-31, no. 2 (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 and 186, 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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Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis

Lot Essay

This work will appear in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné being prepared by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.

Study for Good Morning Darling and Sleeping Girl (Study) are part of one of the most celebrated series in Pop art—Roy Lichtenstein’s female portraits based on comic book romance novels. Together with Andy Warhol’s Soup Cans, these women became some of the defining images of the Pop age and reflected the artist’s formal interest in both the nature of representation, and the cultural dichotomy that existed between male and female stereotypes. These drawings are an integral part of Lichtenstein’s artistic process and show how he broke down the conventional language of pictorial representation and began to build his own unique visual language. Here, in these two works, we can see how Lichtenstein reinterpreted the aesthetic of mass communication and translated it into the realm of high art.

The subject in Sleeping Girl (Study) is one of Lichtenstein’s quintessential themes. The glamorous figure with her bottle blond hair and luscious red lips is apparently slumbering, yet a distinct sense of anxiety creeps across her face as her furrowed brow seems to indicate that she is not at peace in her slumbered state. The subject was appropriated from the work of Tony Abruzzo, a graphic artist whose work appeared in DC comics’ Falling in Love and Girls’ Love Stories, amongst others. Abruzzo’s drawings were among Lichtenstein’s favorite images 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 original works sought to 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.

While in Sleeping Girl (Study) the subject of her torment can only be imagined, in Study for Good Morning Darling our heroine wakes up to the site of her beau as she gazes at his picture placed on her bedside table. Her contented smile indicates that—unlike her compatriot in Sleeping Girl (Study)—she is happy in her relationship, yet as is often the case in Lichtenstein’s pantheon of female heroines, this perfect veneer suggests a much more tumultuous subtext. This is confirmed when the Lichtenstein’s drawing is compared to the original source image. Based on a 1963 Girls’ Romances #97 comic, in his appropriation Lichtenstein removes a swathe of text placed at the top of the panel which sets the context for the accompanying image. ‘I woke to the sight of his face…and those words of love,’ it reads, ‘…which drove away any fears I might have felt.’ Yet despite these adoring words, in Sleeping Girl (Study) , with this text missing the question is raised as to who her “darling” is, why he is not with her, and perhaps more importantly, who he might actually be with.

Unlike his contemporary Andy Warhol, Lichtenstein was not merely interested in celebrating the ubiquitous nature of popular or commercial imagery, but instead he was concerned with how the shorthand of visual language had been built up over the centuries. Drawing had played an important role in Lichtenstein’s early artistic education and he received a thorough and rigorous training under the auspices of the influential professor, Hoyt L. Sherman at Ohio State University. In his book Drawing by Seeing, Sherman espoused a new approach to drawing, “Students must develop an ability to see familiar objects in terms of visual qualities, and they must develop this ability to the degree that old associations with such objects will have only a secondary or a submerged role during the seeing-and-drawing act” (H. L. Sherman, quoted by B. Rose, The Drawings of Roy Lichtenstein, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1987, p. 29). This theory of drawing was reinforced by his use of what Hoyt’s called his ‘flash room’ – a darkened room where images of objects were briefly flashed onto a screen for the students to copy. Teaching drawing in this manner proved to be extremely influential for Lichtenstein as it forced him to focus his attention on the most important visual aspects of the objects structure, and not to become distracted by extraneous matters such as unnecessary decoration.

Although done in advance of his paintings, works such as these are not regarded as sketches or studies in the traditional art historical sense, but rather they act as the first, important stage of a process that culminated in his large-scale paintings. Lichtenstein would use works such as Sleeping Girl (Study) and Study for Good Morning Darling to determine the composition and color of his painting, often altering the original composition of the source image, or framing the image in a particular way to increase the narrative tension or bringing in the framing edge thereby seemingly enlarging the image. Lichtenstein would then project these images onto a large canvas, onto which he would then trace the image, before finally committing the image to paint. Lichtenstein would continually refer to the drawing throughout the painting process, making continuous reference to the colors and forms that he put down on the surface of the paper. So important were these drawings to Lichtenstein’s painting practice, that in 1987 they were afforded their own retrospective exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. In her comprehensive catalogue essay, curator Bernice Rose stated that 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” (B. Rose, The Drawings of Roy Lichtenstein, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York 1987, p. 29).

In addition to being exquisite works in their own right, both Study for Good Morning Darling and Sleeping Girl (Study) are important markers in the development of one of the most dominant artistic movements of the twentieth century. For it is within their diminutive proportions that one of the giants of Pop art arises. Perhaps more than any other artist of his generation, Roy Lichtenstein developed a form of artistic language that not only paid reverence to the past, but also paved the way for its future. They demonstrate Lichtenstein’s capacity as an accomplished draughtsman’s but also the importance of drawing to his overall oeuvre, and as Rose surmised, “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” (B. Rose, ibid., p. 15).

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