Roy Lichtenstein’s Interiors series, of which the present work is an example, was the first extended body of work Lichtenstein started in the 1990s, the last decade of his immensely productive life as a painter. The present work shows us the idealized interior of a home, but one that is so exaggerated in its tidiness, perfection and absence of any human presence that it seems a deliberate parody of a glossy magazine’s home interiors photo spread, a caricature of the excesses of contemporary middle-class lifestyle, as exemplified in interior design and architecture magazines. Here, the artist has chosen to exaggerate his own signature style, enlarging his well-known Ben-Day dots and diagonal shading stripes so much so that they threaten to actually overwhelm the things depicted within the frame, while at the same time uniting the separate elements of the work with his use of bold colors, overlapping forms and thickly drawn boundary lines. What might seem at first a straightforward image is, in fact, a multi-layered work, replete with sophisticated compositional devices and playfully subtle references to Lichtenstein’s own work and to art-historical traditions.
This series represents the culmination of the artist’s life’s work, in which Lichtenstein, a founding figure of the Pop Art movement, explored the strategy of appropriation, using imagery from popular culture and art history, and even borrowing from his own body of work. The Interiors are in a real sense representations of the interior of the artist’s own mind and imagination, displaying his wry, ironic sense of humor and profusely scattered with images indicative of the points of reference that informed his art, references that are sometimes art- historical, sometimes about the larger social world, and sometimes regarding the artist’s own art and work habits. The series is, in part, a knowing reference to one of the earliest Pop Art collages: Richard Hamilton’s “Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?” of 1956, widely regarded as the work that helped launch Pop Art. Hamilton included an image of a “cheesecake” nude in his collage, and the Lichtenstein Interiors, with their lolling nudes (more like decorative elements than actual people), echo that imagery, at the same time seeming to make a sly art-historical homage to Matisse’s nudes and Cézanne's bathers.
Lichtenstein’s interest in the interior as a subject went back to 1961, when he made drawings on that theme, including depictions of household objects as simple graphic shapes in his paintings. Through the Interiors the artist pokes wry, but never condescending, fun at his own art, and that of other artists, as well. The Interiors are filled with references to painting technique and subject matter, such as the use of the punning word “pitcher” in the title of an Interior that includes a picture of pitchers. In another Interior, the word “Form” appears in a painting on the wall.
Many of Lichtenstein’s own paintings appear on the walls of the Interiors, as do his own particular references to Picasso’s paintings. In the Interiors series, Lichtenstein often played with illusion and perception by including mirrors and trompe-l'œil techniques, realistic effects that deceive the eye into perceiving two-dimensional objects as three-dimensional.
“The interiors were settings in which Lichtenstein’s imagination could reinvent the world around him in his particular style and with his brand of humor. For example, the pristine, ultra cool interiors that Lichtenstein painted stood in sharp contrast to the cluttered, lived-in spaces of his studio. His process of invention was a fluid give-and-take, continually modifying and refining his own images in the spirit of play rather than work, but serious play—he always took art seriously but he would never take himself seriously at all. The capacity of Lichtenstein’s art to engage such dualities—whimsy and complexity, drollery and sophistication, parody and reverence—enlivens his work and is a continual source of pleasure” (R. Fitzpatrick, Roy Lichtenstein: Interiors, New York, 2001, p. 14).