The present work is one of the four Woman paintings Lichtenstein executed in 1982 based on Willem de Kooning's Woman series from the 1950s. Lichtenstein's Woman II parodies gestural abstraction and yet, at the same home, pays homage to the movement of Abstract Expressionism. In a 1998 interview, Lichtenstein had commented on his relationship with Abstract Expressionism, "Actually, I love the Abstract Expressionists, or I like the ones I like. [They] put things down on the canvas and responded to what they had done, to the color positions and sizes. My style looks completely different, but the nature of putting down lines pretty much is the same. Mine just don't look calligraphic. All abstract artists try to tell you that what they do comes from nature, and I'm always trying to tell you that what I do is completely abstract. We're both saying something we want to be true" (Quoted in M. Kimmelman, "Life is Short, Art is Long," The New York Times Magazine, 4 January 1998, p. 23).
Diane Waldman has discussed the subtle distinctions and variations of Lichtenstein's Woman through his process of appropriation. She writes, "Lichtenstein, like de Kooning, progressed in his paintings of women from a clearly recognizable though dramatically altered figure to an image in which only the barest suggestion of a female eye and mouth lend it any reality whatsoever. Lichtenstein's Woman IV, the least literal of the series, closely resembles (except for its head) one of de Kooning's abstract compositions of the mid-1950s. Lichtenstein based his first paintings in this series on a close reading of de Kooning's Woman, 1950, with the eyes, mouth, lips, breast, arm, and leg in the same positions. But Lichtenstein's Woman II, Woman III, and Woman IV appear to be variations on his own first Woman painting rather than modeled on any of the variations in de Kooning's series. Unlike de Kooning, who used his brushstroke to build his figures, Lichtenstein seems to have been bent on distinguishing the brushstroke from the figure and making it an active if often separate part of the image. Here, he may be parodying third-or fourth-generation followers of de Kooning who lost sight of the primary function of brushwork, which is to construct form" (D. Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, exh. cat., New York, 1993, p. 265).
Fig. 1 Willem de Kooning, Woman with Bicycle, 1952-53, Whitney Museum of American Art c ARS 2001