From 1969 to 1971, Roy Lichtenstein embarked on a series of works depicting types and shapes of mirrors. Inspired by images of mirrors in retail catalogues and newspaper advertisements, the paintings in this series are abstract interpretations of the mirror as an object and of perceptual effects of light reflected in mirrors.
Depicting a blank reflection, the Mirror works are among the artist's most abstract. Stripping down his subject matter in this way, Lichtenstein used the series to concentrate on the formal aspects of painting and to study the various magnifications of light and optical distortions of shapes on the mirror surface: "it enable[d] him to unleash a new range of inventive bravura, a heightened exploitation of spatial effects, and a new freedom in suggesting illusion" (E. Baker, "The Glass of Fashion and the Mold of Form" in J. Coplans, ed., Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1972, p. 179).
In the present work, the artist uses black and white gradations of his signature Benday dots to represent the mirror surface and the distortion of light. By fashioning a curved swathe of yellow, Lichtenstein further emphasizes the warping effect of light on our perception. The picture's edges, defined by lines that suggest the beveled edges of a mirror, remind us that the work, however abstract, refers to an object in the real world. By creating a painting of a mirror the same size as the object in life, Lichtenstein conflates the thing depicted with the painted representation of it. Mirror #17 exemplifies the artist's interest in the perception of light and of the art object.
Fig. 1 Lichtenstein in his studio, 1971, photograph by Renate Ponsold-Motherwell