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

Water Lilies with Cloud

Details
Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)
Water Lilies with Cloud
signed, numbered and dated 'STA I rf Lichtenstein '92' (on the reverse)
screenprinted enamel on processed and swirled stainless steel with painted artist's frame
67 x 46 3/8in. (170.2 x 117.8cm.)
Executed in 1992, this work is number from an edition of twenty-three plus three printer's proofs, one BAT, six artist's proofs, one NGA and two STA
Provenance
Troy Buckner, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2007.
Literature
M. Corlett, The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein: A Catalogue Raisonné 1948-1993, Washington D.C. 1994, no. 263 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 241)
Exhibited
London, The Mayor Gallery Ltd., Roy Lichtenstein Water Lilies, 1992 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Tokyo, Akira Ikeda Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein: Water Lilies, 1993 (another from the edition exhibited; illustrated, unpaged).

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Lot Essay

Famed for elevating images from popular culture to the status of high art, Roy Lichtenstein overturns this process in Water Lilies With Cloud, appropriating the hallowed canon of high art to showcase his own distinct visual language. Executed in 1992, the print is a wry parody of Claude Monet’s venerated Nympheas. In the print, Lichtenstein deconstructs Monet’s distinct style, replacing Monet’s textural brushstrokes and soft interplay of light and shadow with a dramatic simplification of form colour and geometry, regenerating the work for a contemporary art world. Blocks of vibrant blue hues, strong diagonals, and thick black outlines delineate the shadows, while Lichtenstein’s signature Ben-Day dots imply the highlights of a sun’s rays glistening across the water. The sturdy lines, chromatic intensity and angularity of form create an almost abstract intersection of geometric shapes described in bold primary tones.

Water Lilies with Cloud’s pop assault on the art canon reflects Lichtenstein’s sustained interest in his work’s relationship with his forebears; at various points in his career he produced work based on specific works, like Picasso’s Dora Maar with Cat and van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles, or overtly art-historical structures, mimicking Cubist and Surrealist compositions in the 1970s. Monet offered the painter the opportunity for particularly interesting dialogue, Monet’s soft colours and gorgeous treatment of light apparently resistant to Lichtenstein’s process; as the artist himself said, ‘[W]hen I did paintings based on Monet’s I realised everyone would think that Monet was someone I could never do because his work has no outlines and it’s so Impressionistic. It’s laden with incredible nuance and a sense of the different times of day and it’s just completely different from my art. So, I don’t know, I smiled at the idea of making a mechanical Monet’ (R. Lichtenstein, quoted in M. Kimmelman, PORTRAITS, Talking with Artists at the Met, The Modern, The Louvre and Elsewhere, New York, 1988, http://www.lichtensteinfoundation.org/kimmelman1.htm [accessed 9th May 2014]). Yet Lichtenstein’s lilies feel out other points of contact between the two artists – especially the nineteenth century Japanese woodcut tradition of Hokusai and Hiroshige from which Monet himself took great inspiration. With his flat planes giving way intermittently to strange senses of depth and his rendering of landscape in signature patterns, Lichtenstein seems to possess some of the aesthetic concerns of the Japanese masters. To that end, the work seems to take the water-lily motif back from Monet’s mellifluous Impressionism, returning it, changed and updated, to its source – the work a wonderful example of a certain art-historical circularity.

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