Masterworks  21 November 2017

A Pop Icon Reimagined

Roy Lichtenstein's Brushstroke in three dimensions

Yellow Brushstroke II, 1965 © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

A brushstroke. The literal expression of the act of painting has existed for centuries. And yet never was it more recognizable in the modern era than in the Pop art imagery created by Roy Lichtenstein. This iconic Pop image distilled the essence of painting to a simple singular brushstroke and in one subject encapsulated tenets of the most significant postwar art movements

The numerous paradoxes of Lichtenstein’s work were never clearer than in the At his core, Lichtenstein is a conceptual artist who uses accessible and conventional representations to communicate more abstract subjects. The exploration of the brushstroke subject remains as one the most significant series explored by Roy Lichtenstein in his distinguished career.Brushstroke series.  The subject both honored the art historical canon, yet challenged its basic tenets with the commercial comic book source on which the imagery was based. The brushstroke motif was adapted by Lichtenstein from a comic drawn by Dick Giordano in the October 1964 edition of Strange Suspense. At his core, Lichtenstein is a conceptual artist who uses accessible and conventional representations to communicate more abstract subjects. The exploration of the brushstroke subject remains as one the most significant series explored by Roy Lichtenstein in his distinguished career.

Lichtenstein’s first groundbreaking Brushstroke paintings were created in 1965-1966, yet he continued to explore the motif in drawings and prints until 1971. He would revisit the subject in more elaborate expressions in the 1980s and 1990s by translating the fluidity of the brushstroke into three dimensional renderings. This later period began with the creation of the Brushstroke in Flight sculpture installed at the Columbus International airport in 1982. A few years later, Lichtenstein sought to take this simplified reductive statement one step further. He designed a furniture piece in this iconic expression from which the viewer would move from a passive role to an integrated one by literally sitting within the brushstroke.

The artist with an example of the Brushstroke Chair and Ottoman

The Brushstroke Chair and Ottoman remains the only translation of the Lichtenstein’s iconic imagery into the realm of the functional design. Lichtenstein selected the master craftsmen of Graphicstudio at the University of South Florida to realize his vision. The sophisticated details of the form and design were communicated through intricate drawings Lichtenstein prepared. Like Lichtenstein’s painting, the simplicity communicated in the expression is achieved through technical mastery. Utilizing cutting edge technology, twenty sevens layers of rigid white birch were transformed to execute the artist’s dynamic icon to a functional chair. The result suggests in the rippled edges the rapid movement of the brushstroke and the appearance of a trail of excess paint created by the haste. The selection of the vivid blue hue recounts the painted subjects created earlier in the artist’s career. The ottoman, which is not included in all examples within the edition, further emphasizes the dynamism of the form.

From a small number of works from this pivotal series to remain in private hands, the present lot is a bon à tirer aside from three artist proofs, two printer proofs and the edition of twelve of which only four have ottomans. A bon à tirer is the final trial proof, the one the artist has approved as representative of how he or she wants the edition to look. Examples of the Brushstroke Chair and Ottoman are in the collection of the National Gallery in Washington D.C., the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, and the Broad Collection in Los Angeles. 

Study for Brushstroke Chair, c. 1986 and Study for Brushstroke, c. 1985 © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein 1923–1997

Roy Lichtenstein is one of the originators of the Pop Art movement, famed for paintings that take kitsch and transform it into culture. Lichtenstein was born in New York City in 1923. Growing up, he took art classes at the Art Student League where he created realist paintings. Lichtenstein continued his study of art at Ohio State University but, with the advent of World War II, he enlisted in the army in 1943. Lichtenstein returned to Ohio State after the war to finish his master’s degree in studio art. While Lichtenstein was teaching art at Rutgers University, he became close with fellow artist Allen Krapow, who introduced him to Claes Oldenburg. It was during the 1960s that Lichtenstein began experimenting with what would become his signature style of taking images from comic books and newspapers and reproducing them on a large scale, calling attention to the flatness of the imagery with his Ben-Day technique of painting dots. In 1962, Lichtenstein got his first break with a one-man show at the Leo Castelli Gallery, which sold out before it opened.  

Auction Results Roy Lichtenstein

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