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The Collection of Norman & Lyn Lear

I Love Liberty (Study)

I Love Liberty (Study)
signed and dated 'rf Lichtenstein '81' (lower right); signed again and dated again 'rf Lichtenstein '81' (on the reverse)
painted and printed paper collage and graphite on paperboard
image: 25 ¾ x 17 in. (65.4 x 43.2 cm.)
sheet: 34 x 25 in. (86.4 x 63.5 cm.)
Executed in 1981.
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1982
A. Theil, ed., Roy Lichtenstein: A Catalogue Raisonné, digital, ongoing, no. RLCR 3028 (illustrated).
Further Details
The present work is a unique study for a promotional poster and the screenprint I Love Liberty, published in conjunction with the “I Love Liberty” special broadcast on national television on March 21, 1982. The “I Love Liberty” broadcast was created by Norman Lear and his organization People for the American Way, a progressive advocacy group founded in 1980.

Brought to you by

Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-Head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Undoubtedly one of the most recognizable names in American Pop, Roy Lichtenstein’s seemingly autonomous style reframed commercial imagery and print media in an effort to fully entwine the aesthetics of popular culture with the formalist concerns of mid-century Modernism. I Love Liberty (Study) is a key illustration of Lichtenstein’s ability to vacillate between traditional techniques and mechanical methods as he leverages his own visual vocabulary. Talking about his use of motifs that mimicked his mass media sources, the artist intoned, “My use of evenly repeated dots and diagonal lines and uninflected color areas suggest that my work is right where it is, right on the canvas, definitely not a window into the world” (R. Lichtenstein, quoted in J. Cowart (ed.), Roy Lichtenstein: Beginning to End, exh. cat., Fundación Juan March, Madrid, 2007, p. 52). Bringing attention to the surface of the work and the abstract qualities of simplified shading and pattern, he narrowed the divide between print media and the annals of art history.

Rendered in a vertical orientation, I Love Liberty (Study) features a close crop of America’s most patriotic figure: the Statue of Liberty. Featuring a side profile of the crowned woman, a glimpse of her left hand and tablet, and part of her right hand holding the iconic flaming torch, Lichtenstein’s subject is immediately apparent. Set against an even, ordered background of diagonal blue and white stripes, the artist has simplified the scene down to blocks of black, white, and yellow with a touch of red in the torch’s fire. The sharp edges of the cut paper and Lichtenstein’s own bold painting style line up perfectly so that the entire composition exudes a dynamic, optically imposing air. By doing so, he separates the subject matter from reality and pushes it toward the realm of symbolism.

The present example is a rare look into Lichtenstein’s meticulous working process. Though his finished compositions were sharp, clean, and had all the finish of a mechanically printed page, the artist often carefully hand-cut and rendered his works to mimic the precision of commercial processes, and I Love Liberty (Study) is made up of various collaged paper elements. Executed by the artist for Norman Lear's I Love Liberty TV special in 1982 (produced to mark George Washington's 250th birthday), the present work is a unique study for a promotional poster and screenprint, published in conjunction with the broadcast. The sharpness and vivid presence of Lady Liberty is thanks to Lichtenstein's painstaking preparatory work.

I Love Liberty (Study) is a poignant addition to Lichtenstein’s oeuvre as it takes a familiar image and reframes it in his own signature manner. "I don't think the importance of the art has anything to do with the importance of the subject matter,” the artist once noted. “I think importance resides more in the unity of the composition and in the inventiveness of perception" (Ibid., p. 128). Recasting Lady Liberty in blocks of color against a striped background that vibrates in our vision, the artist asks for a reconsideration of the American symbol and forces us to reexamine something we might think we already know.

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