Executed in 1997, this work will be included in the catalogue raisonné being prepared by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.
Roy Lichenstein's Collage for Interior with Painting of Bather is a masterful collage created as the final study for a large scale painting by the same name, that is part of a series of pictures depicting living rooms and bedrooms executed in the early 1990s. As one of the last major series produced before the artist's death, these paintings represent a culmination of Lichtenstein's method of appropriating images from popular media as well as from his own work.
Seductive commercial images of the modern home interior formed the inspirational basis of the Interior series. While Lichtenstein served as an artist-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome in the spring of 1989, he spotted a billboard furniture advertisement that triggered his scavenges into the local Yellow Pages for interior images of rooms. Many of the works in this series, as a result, focus on a subject that captured the attention of many Pop artists: the myth of blissful bourgeois domesticity.
Yet another, equally important, theme for Lichtenstein in these works is the subject of art itself. Lichtenstein places recognizably Contemporary art within this and other Interior scenes. The paintings (in this case "Painting of Bather") and sculptures symbolize luxurious commodities as well as canonical art historical references wittily reinterpreted in Lichtenstein's vernacular: graphic lines and Benday dots that recall Lichtenstein's own early comic strip works. It is not clear whether the Bather is meant to be recognized from one of Lichtenstein's own works, or merely a symbol of a common artistic trope, the odalisque or nude, and thus a reference to Titian, Cezanne or Matisse. As a result, she is a symbol of Art itself.
By executing the work in the standardized sharp graphics of the artist's own vocabulary, Lichtenstein makes a powerful impact with Collage for Interior with Painting of Bather. "Benday dots and diagonal shading stripes are technical printing devices that in commercial art are meant to go unnoticed. Lichtenstein has blown them up to such a scale that they read not just as information but as interference, as static" (R. Kalina, p. 82). While the bold colors and graphics collide, Lichtenstein unifies the work through the skillful distribution of color and graphics. In particular, he demonstrates this skill in using fields of dots to denote walls, floors, table, couch and even the bather herself.
The collage is a fascinating example of Lichtenstein's working method and intricate compositional technique. When examined up close, the intricate layers of collage in Collage for Interior with Painting of Bather add a three-dimensionality to the work that the graphic style is meant to diminish. As a result, the collage has a vibrant, living and breathing quality that a two-dimensional painting couldn't have, since it reveals the rare sign of the artist's hand. Furthermore, the collage technique echoes the duality that is inherent within Lichtenstein's paintings; apparently naive but actually highly sophisticated. Lichtenstein's calculated, cartoonish interpretation of America's bourgeois domestic ideal belies a compelling rexamination of the nature of representation and art making itself.