Executed in 1963, this work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné being prepared by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.
Steak (Chop) is part of a small group of rare drawings by Roy Lichtenstein from the early 1960s that he conceived as independent works, not as preparatory sketches for a larger work. The present work heralds the arrival of his bold mature style, its crisp and clean lines early examples of his signature technique, which would soon become familiar in his comic book inspired works. Early on, Lichtenstein drew with delicate simplicity, but in 1962 he started a highly sophisticated series of works in which he selected a diverse range of source material, introducing a richer variety of techniques to his more and more detailed compositions. Steak (Chop) more strongly emphasizes the geometric patterns contained within the object itself, although it still bears his characteristic strong outlines. He achieved this prominence by refining his earlier technique for creating his characteristic Benday dots in which he would place a surface with raised patterns under the sheet of paper he was working on and rub a pencil over the top to make the mark on the paper. Lichtenstein felt this short lived method resulted in dots that were far too rich and luxurious for the mechanical effect he was trying to achieve. In 1963, he returned to using a perforated screen placed on the sheet, over which he would rub his pencil to obtain a more regular pattern of evenly spaced dots.
By the time Roy Lichtenstein drew Steak (Chop), he had perfected this technique to a new level of sophistication, resulting in works of exceptional clarity and precision. He carried out his drawings using the highest quality paper and materials, in contrast to the comic books he imitated. This contrast between materials and subject matter makes Steak (Chop) stand out as one of the artist's most important works on paper.
Lichtenstein's drawings recently received a major retrospective at New York's Morgan Library & Museum, which revealed anew their quality and significance. The New York Times art critic underscores the respect with which these works are now viewed, "the artist's hand is everywhere, adjusting the density of the dots from faint to dark (sometimes by doubling them up), filling in areas so that even finer lines have a slightly chiseled, insistent roughness, and making useful discoveries...What is perhaps most striking is his determination to have the entire sheet of paper come alive and register as a whole. This electricity unifies nearly all his paintings, edge to edge, with a bracing combination of the familiar and the abstract that still has few equals in modern art" (R. Smith, "Following The Dots Around the City", New York Times, September 24, 2010, p. C33).
Steak (Chop) takes its place at the very heart of Lichtenstein's Pop revolution. One of only a few works from this period of the artist's career, it provides an excellent and rare opportunity to see first hand the technical and compositional skill of an artist who was able to turn a straightforward and utilitarian line drawing into an object of simple beauty and high art.