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Expressionist Head

Expressionist Head
incised with the artist's signature, number and date '1/6 rf Lichtenstein '80' (lower edge)
painted and patinated bronze with painted wooden base
sculpture: 55 1/8 x 40 3/8 x 18 in. (140 x 102.6 x 45.7 cm.)
overall: 75 7/8 x 24 x 30 in. (192.7 x 61 x 76.2 cm.)
Executed in 1980. This work is number one from an edition of six.
Katherine Komaroff Fine Art, New York
Jeffrey H. Loria & Co., Inc., New York, 2000
Mrs. Sydell Miller, Cleveland, 2001
Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, gift from the above
Their sale; Christie's, New York, 17 May 2017, lot 59B
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
L. Alloway, Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1983, p. 99, no. 101 (another example illustrated).
J. Hendrickson, Roy Lichtenstein, Cologne, 2012, p. 66 (another example illustrated).
Roy Lichtenstein Sculptor, exh. cat., Venice, Fondazione Emilio e Annabianca Vedova, 2013, pp. 23, 144 and 281, no. 105 (another example illustrated).
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Roy Lichtenstein: 1970-1980, September-November 1981, pp. 148, 150 and 153 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
New York, 65 Thompson Street, Roy Lichtenstein Bronze Sculpture, 1976-1989, May-July 1989, pp. 56-57 and 89, no. 19 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; Munich, Haus der Kunst; Hamburg, Deichtorhallen; Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts and Columbus, Wexner Center for the Arts, Roy Lichtenstein, October 1993-January 1996, p. 332, no. 263 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Mexico City, Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes and Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes; Washington D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art; Valencia, Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno (IVAM); A Coruña, Spain, Fundación Pedro Barrié de la Maza and Lisbon, Centro Cultural de Belém, Lichtenstein: Sculptures & Drawings, July 1998-August 2000, pp. 17, 58 and 135, no. 82 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Miami, Museum of Contemporary Art, Roy Lichtenstein: Inside/Outside, December 2001-February 2002, p. 105 (another example exhibited).
London and New York, Gagosian Gallery, Roy Lichtenstein: Sculpture, June-October 2005, pp. 16, 54-55 and 118 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Milan, La Triennale di Milano, Roy Lichtenstein: Meditations on Art, January-May 2010, p. 269 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Paris, Gagosian Gallery, Lichtenstein: Expressionism, July-October 2013, pp. 7-8, 72-73 and 124 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Paris, Centre Pompidou, Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective, July-November 2013. p. 356 (another example exhibited).
Further details
This work will be included in the Catalogue Raisonné being prepared by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.

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

Lot Essay

Best known for his paintings of comic book heroines, throughout his career Roy Lichtenstein was an astute surveyor of visual culture and the role it played in contemporary society. One of a select group of sculptural works that Lichtenstein worked on during his career, Expressionist Head translates his signature two-dimensional painterly language into three-dimensional form. With his use of strong colors and bold black lines, together with his clever understanding and employment of the visual language of perspective, shadowing, hatching and other tropes, this striking planer head of an expressionist woman comes alive with dynamism and visual resonance.

Larger than life size, this angular head is a dazzling arrangement of color and form. Angular fields of red, yellow, and dark blue mark out various planes of the face. In the manner of the German Expressionist painters such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, her angular features are flattened and pushed forward, so that each plane sits on a par with the next. His clever use of stylized crosshatching juxtaposed next to solid blocks of primary color, and the inclusion of open space, are all used to ingeniously present the appearance of depth.

In a work such as this, Lichtenstein is clearly building on the visual language that he so cleverly engaged with in his comic book inspired Pop paintings of the 1960s. Along with contemporaries such as Andy Warhol and Tom Wesselmann, Lichtenstein eschewed the gestural abstractions of the previous generation of painters such as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning, and forged a new artistic language based on the burgeoning consumer culture and explosion in mass media. Like his paintings, Lichtenstein’s sculptures resulted from his preoccupation with the formal qualities of art and the complex task of representing the ephemeral quality of artistic illusionism. The present work is the result of investigating how to produce a three dimensional object whilst still retaining the aesthetic qualities of his two dimensional works. His unique solution was to combine the solidity and clean lines made possible by using metal together with the pure, rich color finish of paint to create a burst of three-dimensional illusionism. As Diane Waldman has observed, “Lichtenstein's sculpture is an extension of his painting….he reinforced the look of mechanical perfection that paint could only simulate but not duplicate and it provided the perfect opportunity to make an ephemeral form concrete” (D. Waldman, quoted in Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1971, p. 23).

Throughout his career Lichtenstein studied and coopted a number of art historical styles into his work, but his interest in German Expressionism was paramount among these. It stemmed from a visit he made to an exhibition of Expressionist prints and books owned by the renown collector George Gore Rifkind (now in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art). On returning to the East Coast he embarked on a series of sculptures that were inspired by what he had seen on his trip. In a work such as Expressionist Head, Lichtenstein borrows less from a specific painting, but more from the unique visual language that that early twentieth-century used to address their concerns. "I didn't quote specific pieces as I had done with earlier works derived from Monet and Picasso,” the artist said, “but I did keep in mind such artists as Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Erich Heckel. In a certain sense, I have always tried to eliminate the meaning of the original. If I had actually kept in mind German Expressionism in my latest series of paintings, then my work would have seemed to be Expressionist. But for my own subjects I make use of a style rather than a specific painting" (R. Lichtenstein, quoted by P. Jodidio, Connaissance des arts, no. 349, March 1981, translated from the French by Michael D. Haggerty; reprinted in G. Mercurio, Roy Lichtenstein: Meditations on Art, exh. cat., La Trienale di Milano, 2010, p. 261).

Roy Lichtenstein produced a complex and varied body of work, and his sculptures engage the viewer in questions of visual perception, by subverting the illusion of flatness in three-dimensions. His oeuvre resulted from his preoccupation with the formal qualities of art and the complex task of representing the ephemeral quality of artistic illusionism. Expressionist Head is the result of his dilemma of how to produce a three-dimensional object whilst still retaining the aesthetic qualities of his two dimensional work. His unique solution was to combine the solidity and clean lines and hatching with the pure, rich color pigment. The result? A burst of three-dimensional expressionistic illusionism.

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