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Roy Lichtenstein (b.1923)

Apple and Grapefruit

Details
Roy Lichtenstein (b.1923)
Apple and Grapefruit
signed and dated 'Roy Lichtenstein '80' (on the reverse)
oil and magna on canvas
51 x 61 cm. (20 x 24 in.)
Painted in 1980
Provenance
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, USA
Private Collection, New York, USA
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 8 November 1989, Lot 39
Private Collection, Japan
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 16 May 2007, Lot 229
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Exhibited
St. Louis Art Museum and Seattle Art Museum, Roy Lichtenstein: 1970-1980 , May 1981-September 1981.
New York, Leo Castelli Gallery, Lichtenstein: New Works , October-November 1981.
Paris, Galerie Daniel Templon, Roy Lichtenstein: oeuvres r?centes , January-February 1983.
Special notice

This Lot has been sourced from overseas. When auctioned, such property will remain under “bond” with the applicable import customs duties and taxes being deferred unless and until the property is brought into free circulation in the PRC. Prospective buyers are reminded that after paying for such lots in full and cleared funds, if they wish to import the lots into the PRC, they will be responsible for and will have to pay the applicable import customs duties and taxes. The rates of import customs duty and tax are based on the value of the goods and the relevant customs regulations and classifications in force at the time of import.

Lot Essay

At its core, Apple & Grapefruit is a painting about painting. In this exquisite example from his Still Life series of the 1970's and early 1980's, Roy Lichtenstein brings the ancient art historical genre into the age of Pop. Using a technique pioneered by his Brushstrokes series of the late 1960's, Lichtenstein utilizes highly stylized and intensely flat oversized brushstrokes to create his composition, camouflaging the artist's hand almost entirely. In creating this work, Lichtenstein is a Post-Modern C?zanne, as C?zanne deconstructed the still life subject down to its base elements of brushstrokes, Lichtenstein goes even further to deconstruct the brushstroke to pure line and fields of primary colour.
Lichtenstein rose to fame in the early 1960's with his monumental paintings of comic book scenes. Adopting the same technique as the comics of 1950's and 60's popular culture, Lichtenstein constructed his paintings by meticulously handpainting Ben-Day dots, a printmaking technique in which an image was produced out of cyan, magenta, yellow and black dots. Lawrence Alloway pinpoints what makes these first works like Look Mickey (1961) so revolutionary, as it was "an original art work pretending to be a copy" (L. Alloway, quoted in "A Parody of the Painterly Gesture: The Depicted Brushstroke in the Drawings of Roy Lichtenstein," MoMA, No. 42, Winter 1987, p. 5).
With this intense stylization Lichtenstein placed his work in stark contrast to Pop Art's predecessor, Abstract Expressionism. Established by artists such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline, this movement immortalized the very act of painting and the physicality of the paint itself. The act of creation was the true subject of this style, elevating the artist to a near holy position. As this movement began to fall apart in the early 1960's, artists like Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol filled the vacuum it left behind with slick images derived from contemporary advertizing and popular culture. The clinical Pop Artists emerged as the antithesis to the hyper-mascul ine, "cowboy" Abstract Expressionists. There is some irony in the fact that, for a time, Lichtenstein was an unsuccessful Abstract Expressionist himself. Following his exploration of the comic book genre, Lichtenstein began began to investigate the motif of the brushstroke i t s e l f : "Finally he discovered a way to make an actual brushstroke look like an imitation of itself: he found that if he painted a small study with ink or Magna on acetate, the acetate would repel the wet medium, forcing it to 'crawl' back within well-defined contours. If he projected the study onto canvas, he could outline around the projected brushstroke, making it a distinct formal unit, as stylized as a cartoon" (ibid.) In Apple & Grapefruit Lichtenstein returns to this technique, but also incorporates subject matter beyond the brushstroke, marking an important point of artistic transition. The brushstroke continues to be an important motif for Lichtenstein from 1980 onwards, a parody of the brushstroke that was so sacred to Abstract Expressionism.
Apple & Grapefruit is a prime example of Lichtenstein's mature work in which the artist deconstructs not only the subject matter of his work into its base elements of paint and colour, but also the brushstroke itself.

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